Metates and Manos
For thousands of years grinding tools have been used in the American Southwest and elsewhere in the New World, to grind plant seeds to form meal, when mixed with water, can be made into cakes and breads. In the Southwest, grinding tools are referred to as metates and manos. From earliest times, these tools have been the tool of tribes which gained their main subsistence by collecting and gathering wild plant foods and items.
The metate and mano are essentially one tool made up of two parts. The lower one is called the metate and it forms a base upon which the smaller part, the mano, is moved by hand back and forth to produce a pulverizing action. Together they form a hand powered machine for milling grain.
The large stationary member of the metate-mano grinding tool is made from a block of sandstone or porous lava rock. The rough texture of the stone provides a sandpaper effect when the mano is rubbed across the metate. The tools are made by flaking with a sharp edged stone hammer.
Further modifications may consist of pecking and grinding to remove high spots and smooth the sharp edges. Various shapes of grinding stones have been popular from time to time. The mano tool is shaped to match the style of the Metate on which it is to be used.
The combined metate-mano corn milling tool is perhaps the most important household tool of the Native American Southwest. With its general use, coupled with the knowledge of wild seed plants, a large food yield was the basis of native population. The pioneers also used these tools. Come see them at the Payson D.U.P. Museum at the Payson City Building. Call 801-465-9858 to schedule your tour. (Some of the info is pulled from a pamphlet on metates and manos by Frank W. Eddy.)
Metates and Manos on display at the Payson D.U.P. Museum.