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October 2014: Metate

Ceremonial Bird Effigy Grinding Stone (Metate). Nicoya culture (Period IV – Period V) , Costa Rica, AD 300 – 700. Carved volcanic stone. 15 × 27 1/2 × 9 3/4 inches.  Museum purchase, 1971.41.

Ceremonial Bird Effigy Grinding Stone (Metate). Nicoya culture (Period IV – Period V) , Costa Rica, AD 300 – 700. Carved volcanic stone. 15 × 27 1/2 × 9 3/4 inches. Museum purchase, 1971.41.

Ceremonial Bird Effigy Grinding Stone (Metate), Nicoya Culture, 300-700 AD

Nature is an integral part of life for Costa Ricans past and present. Located in a region that is both seismic and volcanic, between two oceans, and with vast rainforests and mountains, the area has unparalleled biodiversity. Long before scientists could explain natural phenomena like the cycles of the moon, earthquakes, or volcanoes, these events shaped ancient religions and mythologies. Geographic features evoked different layers of the afterlife; for example, mountains and trees pointed to the heavens, and caves to the netherworld.

Ancient Mesoamericans used metates to grind corn. Though an everyday, domestic act, grinding corn also symbolized transformation and the cyclical nature of life. The breaking down of the grain transformed it into food and drink that they consumed in daily life. Corn also recalled ancestors who domesticated maize, and the belief that the first humans were created from corn.

Decorative elements on metates point to nature’s important role to ancient Costa Ricans. Metates from the Guanacaste-Nicoya Zone typically have three legs and animal imagery, including various species of birds, crocodiles, jaguars, and monkeys. Mesoamerican mythologies associated birds with vegetation, crops, wilderness, and nature as a whole.

On this metate’s legs, abstracted parrots face downwards, pointing towards the underworld. Certain metates were reserved for ritual, ceremonial, or funerary functions; the birds’ placement likely affirms that this metate was intended for use in the afterlife.

Join the conversation!

How does geography and the environment impact your daily life? How do you care for your surroundings? What interests you in nature?

Check out these links, and join the conversation below!

“Pura Vida: Costa Rica’s Culture of Conservation,” Terrascope Radio, May 15, 2012

“An Economist for Nature Calculates the Need for More Protection,” New York Times, August 8, 2011

"Windmill" (1926), Thomas Hart Benton, United States, 1889-1975. Oil on canvas on board. BMA Collection, 1997.72

Happy Fall!

Fall is a time of change, and what better way to enjoy the season than with our ever-changing galleries? At the BMA, we are feeling festive for the fall ahead, filled with colorful leaves, perfect weather and – of course – plenty of

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Museum News

2014 Season of Art on the Rocks a Success

That’s a wrap for the 10th Anniversary season of Art On The Rocks presented by Dale’s Seasoning! More than 6,500 people visited the Museum and enjoyed performances by Birmingham artists, musicians, dancers, comedians, actors and designers who drew inspiration from the Museum’s world-renowned permanent collection and our summer exhibition Lethal Beauty: Samurai Weapons and Armor.

Guests enjoyed Japanese-inspired cuisine and drinks from A Social Affair, community art collaborations, an Asian-inspired fashion show, and our newest addition to AOTR – Nijikai! The Nijikai after-party was an enormous success, thanks to participating venues: Carrigan’s Public House, Paramount, and The Collins Bar. The Upper Plaza was flooded with excitement brought on by the talented headlining bands Seryn, The Kopecky Family Band, and Matrimony. The diverse range of performances and demonstrations from local artists and supporters included DJ COCO, DANCEe, Yellowhammer Creative, Shaia’s and Southern Femme, AEIVA and Magic Chromacity, The Baking Bandits, Steva Casey of Veranda, Saks Fifth Avenue, Seasick Records, DJ Coco, and Pastry Art.

The Birmingham Museum of Art would like to thank all of the volunteers, sponsors, and new guests who became members during Art on The Rocks!

A special thanks to the sponsors who made this 2014 season such a success: Dale’s Seasoning, Bromberg’s, Birmingham Budweiser, Pinnacle Vodka, Back Forty Beer Co., H2 Real Estate, Fox 6, and Birmingham Mountain Radio.

Continuing the Junior Patron Experience…

In addition to Art on the Rocks, the Junior Patrons host a multitude of exciting events throughout the year including private home and studio visits, behind the scenes tours, exclusive exhibition openings at the Museum, collaborations with curators and other Support Groups, as well as opportunities to be a part of the unique arts community in Birmingham. For more information and a list of upcoming events check out our webpage and our Facebook page.  Follow us to stay in the loop!

A Junior Patron individual membership is $60 for an individual or $80 for a dual membership. Click here to join online.

Sports mural in the gym.

South Hampton Elementary Mural Projects

On Thursday, September 11, the Museum joined Hands On Birmingham and T-Mobile for Huddle Up, T-Mobile’s national community outreach program that connects kids, primarily from single parent-families in high-need, urban communities to positive people, places, and programs. T-Mobile’s Huddle Up

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"John Grogan, A Patriot and his Dog, Ireland" (1980) Alen MacWeeney, Ireland. Gelatin silver print. BMA collection, 1982.224.9.

Dog Day at the BMA

August 26 is National Dog Day, and we couldn’t help but notice the many dogs that roam the Museum’s collection. Across centuries and cultures, dogs have been used repeatedly in works of art as signs of protection and companionship. The dogs in

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