noun    1. a cup-shaped receptacle made of hard material, in which ingredients are crushed or ground, used especially in cooking or pharmacy. See also; “mortar and pestle”

The Mortar was a widely used implement in many Pre-Columbian cultures. It played a key role in rituals and ceremonies but was also an important part of daily life.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of mortars is their tactility. It’s difficult to fully appreciate the extent of their formal nuance until they are handled. Only then does one understand how the shape or placement of appendages actually affect its use.

If good design is a marriage of form and function, then the ancient mortars made by the Inca, Chavin, Chorrera-Valdivia and Alamito Cultures certainly represent the height of early design in the Americas.

inca four feline mortar stone    chavin spiked mortar pre-columbian        chavin incised mortar pre-columbian