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Dinosaurs In Literature, History and Art: Ancient Costa Ricans Faced Winged Terror from Above; and Things Weren't Always So Sanguine on the Ground Either-Stone Metates of Central America....Page 85

by Chris Parker
Copyright 2008


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Costa Rican stone metate, A.D. 1-500

"Based on the art they left behind, the Ancient Costa Ricans worried a bit about terror from the skies and for that matter, there appeared to be giant reptiles on the ground (the scientific paradigm calls them crocodilians or reptilians) that elicited a bit of concern as well.

Hello, I'm's Chris Parker. You know, science tells us that dinosaurs and pterosaurs died out 40 million and 65 million years ago respectively. Here at, we do the kind of research that thankfully takes no skill or special knowledge at all. We look at pictures of ancient art and visit museums. Our research tells science is off by 99.99% or so.".

Figure 1 is an ancient stone metate from Costa Rica. Two bird-like creatures attack men by the head on either side of this stone table.

Costa Rica which means “Rich Coast” is a Central American country bordered by the countries of Nicaragua and Panama to the east and south and by the Pacific on its southern and western border and the Caribbean Sea to the east. Many people find it to be a choice vacation destination.

It’s possible that the proximity of its coastlines to the Pacific Ocean and Carribean Sea may account for its ancient fascination with death and terror from the skies. Maybe these giant flying creatures, if they really existed stopped in on their way to someplace else?


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Costa Rican gold figures show reptilian monsters, dragons, dinosaurs--or crocodiles if you believe the hype; one with a warrior in his mouth, A.D. 1-500. Museo del Oro.

Art from Costa Rica looks different than other Pre-colombian art. They were at the edge of the civilizations we call Aztec. Frequent themes of ancient Costa Rican and of its neighbors Nicaragua and the Honduras frequently featured birds, the jaguar, trophy heads and reptilian figures which science always neatly explains away.

One interesting artifact found all over pre-Columbian South and Central America is the stone metate which was used for grinding corn and other foodstuffs. Some of the metates of Costa Rica however, were especially ornate and included three dimensional figures like birds, “giant flying creatures”, “monkeys, jaguars, warriors and again saurians or reptilian figures.

The author has seen approximately 100 examples of these ancient stone metates and more than a handfull of them show represenatations of large “bat winged creatures”, attacking lions , monkey’s and/or men from above.

One can certainly argue about what each of these flying creatures represent; birds, pterosaurs or mythological creatures but certainly for some unknown reason it is clear that the Costa Rican’s imagined or witnessed attacks from giant flying creatures. Note that bats do not have the long bills represented. Some birds and some pterosaurs did or do…

Figure 2 shows two reptilian monsters/dragons/dinosaurs, one with an unfortunate ancient Central American in his mouth. The size represented as well as the height of the "monster" contraindicate a crocodile or an alligator.

Costa Rican stone metate, A.D. 1-500, 15 1/4 inches long Sotherby's Private Collection


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A comparison of one of the attacking, crested, creatures (left, Figure 1) with contemporary depictions of pterosaurs.

Below we provide examples of several ancient Costa Rican stone metates with the features we’ve described. Our intial metate, Figure 1, displays one obvious pterosaur depiction attacking the head of a man. Our speculation that at least one pterosaur is being represented goes as far as to suggest that the head crest puts us in mind of an Azhdarchids an often giant pterosaur which includes the very large and difficult to spell; Quetzalcoatlus.

The Azhdarchids, A Group of Giant Pterosaurs; The Official Version

Source: The Guardian, Wednesday May 28 2008

Photo: Detail of Figure 1 compared with an Azhdarchid pterosaur. The winged figure on the right side of Figure 1 could be a quetzalcoatlus-note the beak-or a large bird

The largest creatures that ever flew may have spent much of their time on the ground, research suggests. Azhdarchids were a type of pterosaur, or "winged lizard", living at the time of the dinosaurs.

Their wingspans could exceed 10 metres (32ft). They were thought to have lived like seagulls or pelicans, patrolling coastlines from the air and swooping down on fish in the water. But new evidence from their fossil distribution and footprints suggests they were more likely to stalk prey on foot.

Darren Naish, from the University of Portsmouth, and his team studied fossils in London, Portsmouth and Germany, and compared the physical characteristics of azhdarchids with those of modern animals.

Azhdarchids have puzzled scientists since the 1970s. Originally described as vulture-like scavengers, they were later thought to have used their long pointed beaks to probe for prey in mud. Most experts assume they flew over the surface of coastal waters like modern seabirds, searching for fish. But Naish, writing in the journal PLoS ONE, disagrees.

The huge flying reptiles, which lived between 65m and 230m years ago, are named after the Uzbek word for "dragon". They had long toothless bills, and when standing on the ground could be as tall as a giraffe. In flight they could be as large as a modern light aircraft. Naish believes the azhdarchids were more like ground-feeding hornbills or storks than pelicans.


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This Costa Rican metate from between 100 B.C. to A.D. 500 was a museum sale piece. The central figure is a bat-winged reptilan clutching a snake in his mouth. Bats don't have long beaks but..pterosaurs do.

"All the details of their anatomy, and the environment their fossils are found in, show that they made their living by walking around, reaching down to grab and pick up animals and other prey," he writes. The team looked at the azhdarchid neck, which was unusually stiff. They found it fitted in well with the "terrestrial stalker" theory, since all a grounded azhdarchid had to do was raise and lower its bill tip. The creatures' small padded feet and long but weak jaws also suggested a ground-living lifestyle.

His co-researcher, Mark Witton, said: "The small feet of azhdarchids were no good for wading around lake margins or swimming should they land on water, but are excellent for strutting around on land. As for what azhdarchids would eat, they'd have snapped up bite-size animals or even bits of fruit. But if your skull is over two metres in length then bite-size includes everything up to a dinosaur the size of a fox."

More than half the known azhdarchid fossils were recovered from sediments that were laid down inland, the researchers found.

Stone Metates, the Official Version


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This is another Costa Rican metate from between 100 B.C. to A.D. 500. The central figure is a bat-winged creature large enough to attack one of the big cats of Central America.

"Carved, volcanic-stone ceremonial metates represent one of the most unusual and complex traditions of pre-Columbian artifacts from Costa Rica. They come in many different forms, and morphological variation corresponds to different regions and time periods. They can be rectangular, circular, flat, or curved.

They may or may not have rims and between three and four legs. Some exhibit use-wear while others show no signs of wear and appear to have been made specifically for use as burial goods. Some examples characterized as metate might have actually been a type of throne for sitting on – not a metate at all.

Some examples are known as effigy-headed metate, which feature an animal’s head at one end, with the metate itself making up the body of the creature. Animals typically depicted are jaguar, crocodile or birds.

The most complex type of ceremonial metate is the class referred to as “flying-panel” metate. This style comes from the Atlantic watershed region, including the City of Guayabo and represents a high level of craftsmanship and complexity.


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This is another Costa Rican metate from between 100 B.C. to A.D. 500. On either side winged, long beaked creatures attack warriors at the head. In the center is a very long beaked figure. Go figure.

Carved from a single piece of stone, these metate typically contain multiple figures, both underneath the plate and on the legs. Trophy heads, birds, jaguar, monkey and saurian figures are the most common themes. The “flying panel” metate is believed to be the precursor to free standing sculptural figures more common later in the Atlantic watershed region.

Temporal and regional variation

The earliest traditions of stone sculpture in Costa Rica, including ceremonial metate, began in late Period IV (A.D. 1-500). Metate from the Nicoya/Guanacaste region have longitudinally curved and rimless plates. Those from the Atlantic-Watershed have a plate that is horizontally flat and rimmed.

Both are associated with mortuary goods, suggesting differential social status existed within these communities. The three main types of Costa Rican stone sculpture at this time– tripod-metate, mace heads and jade “axe-god” pendants – peaked and declined in use during Period V (A.D. 500-1000).

Stone sculpture was never popular again in the Nicoya/Guanacaste region, but in the Atlanic Watershed ( such as from Guayabo) by Period VI (A.D. 1000-1500) freestanding figural sculpture and new forms of ceremonial metate came into use.

These new metate types might be rectangular with four legs like the jaguar effigy-head examples or might be round in shape with a pedestal base. These latter types often have carved human heads (or just suggestive notches) around the rim implying a relationship with ritual trophy-head taking.

This particular form of metate seems to have been influenced by the stone sculptures of the Panamanian site of Barriles.

At the site of Las Huacas, fifteen metates were excavated from sixteen graves. None of these metate had mano (grinding stones), suggesting that the carved metate as a mortuary object had a deeper symbolic meaning than just the processing of foodstuffs. The metate’s basic mechanical purpose is a platform on which (primarily) maize is ground into flour. This transformation of grain to flour has symbolic implications relating to life, death and rebirth.

It is still not clear if maize was a main source of sustenance, and it is entirely possible that maize was reserved for making chicha (beer), for use in ritual feasting activities. Given their role as a burial good, it seems that metate held a strong meaning for human life, death and the hope for a rebirth or transformation of some kind.



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This is another Costa Rican metate from between 100 B.C. to A.D. 500. In the center is a reptilian or if you prefer "batlike", very long beaked figure.

The three most popular iconographic elements of ceremonial metate seem to be saurian, bird, and jaguar creatures. Monkeys are also not uncommon. A unique feature of ceremonial metate is the lack of human figures.

Disembodied heads are the sole exception.

While human figures become the main subject of the free standing sculptures depicting nude females or male warriors with trophy heads and bound male captives, these do not seem to have been depicted on metate. Flying-panel metates often have anthropomorphic figures, but these always have animal (often crocodile) heads.

In both the Nicoya and Atlantic-Watershed regions, metates often involve the use of saurian (Specifically crocodile, alligator, or caiman) imagery. It is thought that the saurian represents the surface of the earth, which relates to agricultural fertility.

One of the oldest and most prominent themes in Chibcha art is that of the Crocodile god. Depicted as an anthropomorphic being with a crocodile head, he has been carved into fly-panel metates, sometimes shown standing on a double-headed saurian and other times a jaguar. As a symbol the double-headed Saurian has the longest use and distribution of any iconographic element in the Isthmo-Columbian area.

Costa Rica flying-panel metates date to the 1st and 7th centuries. However, certain features of the Crocodile god depicted on flying-panel metates show him with unnatural U-shaped elbows with long, narrow fingers, as seen on crocodile gods made in gold that date to the 10th-16th centuries.

These stylistic forms make sense for use in the small gold ornaments made with the lost-wax technique, but seem strange for use in carved stone. Perhaps these metate date much later than previously thought, and were in fact inspired by the depictions in gold.

Birds with long, curving beaks that seem to represent vultures, toucans or maybe hummingbirds are another popular theme. First found in Costa Rica on Pavas and El Bosque phase pottery, these are a common element in Flying-panel metates, sometimes depicted with or pecking at human heads."..... Wikipedia

For some strange reason, and for a people said by science never to have encountered pterosaurs or dnosaurs, thee ancient Costa Rican's had a preoccupation with creatures that looked very much like dinosaurs and pterosaurs.

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