1884.10.28

Stone muller

Place details: M AMERICA. Costa Rica / unnamed tumulus. Local Name: mano Materials: Stone / ?. Processes: Ground / ?. Weight: 1535 g Dimensions: L = 426 mm Diam = 51 mm Maker: Unknown Field Collector: Berthold Carl Seemann [Dr Seaman] When Collected: By 1874 Other Owners: Berthold Carl Seemann Pitt Rivers sent this object to Bethnal Green Museum for display, as part of the first batch of objects sent there, probably in 1874. This object was listed in the Delivery Catalogue as having been transferred from South Kensington Museum in 1884 PRM Source: Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers founding collection Acquired: Donated 1884

KEYWORD: Grinder / Mortar / Food Accessory / CLASS: Food and Drink / Tool / ?.

Object description: Stone muller. The muller is cylindrical and tapers slightly at both ends. The stone is mid brown coloured. The surface of the muller is smooth. [MJD (Verve) 23/06/2015]

Publications history, trails & websites: Referred to on page 385 of 'Central America', by Elizabeth Graham, Dan Hicks and Alice Stevenson, in World Archaeology at the Pitt Rivers Museum: A Characterization, edited by Dan Hicks and Alice Stevenson (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2013), pp. 383-400. Graham, Hicks and Stevenson write: 'The remaining 4 artefacts are recorded as ‘found in a tumulus’ by Dr Berthold Carl Seemann (1825–1871): a sickle-shaped stone tool (1884.126.223), and 4 stone metates (grinding slabs) with carved decorations (1884.10.25, 1884.10.27–28, 1884.68.76). Seemann was a German botanist who trained at the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and travelled widely around the world: visiting South America in the 1860s, before managing a sugar estate in Panama, and the Javali gold mine in Chontales, Nicaragua where he was the manager (Belt 1874: 94, footnote 1) until his death in 1871. In his account of travel in Panama, Nicaragua and Mosquito, written with Bedford Pim (Pim and Seemann 1869), Seemann described the excavation of some of ‘a great number of ancient tombs...in the grassy districts of Chontales’ in Nicaragua: ... The similarity between this ‘hatchet like a reaping hook’ and the stone tool described above (1884.126.223) indicates that this object – and perhaps also the metates – may in fact come from burial mound excavations at Chontales, Nicaragua, rather than from Costa Rica.' [MJD (Verve) 7/1/2016]

Research notes: Identified as probably Costa Rican by reference to Abel-Vidor et al (DOC). [LM, 1990 12].

This object was chosen to feature in a trail around the Pitt Rivers Museum in association with the Museum of English Rural Life on Farming The First 12,000 years (https://merl.reading.ac.uk/explore/online-exhibitions/farming12k/). It featured in a pamphlet with the caption "Milling tools. How is flour produced? Before powered mills, grain was processed by hand. This was normally done daily using groundstone tools, like these examples from Central America. The mortar or bowl is from the Chiriqui Province, Panama, and the muller is probably from Costa Rica. Archaeological and ethnographic evidence shoe that the same tools were used to prepare other foods, dyes, medicines, and even metals. Different milling technologies have emerged globally over time, including the use of wind, water and draught animal power." [FB 5/1/2021]