Manos were used in prehistoric times to process wild seeds, nuts and other food, generally used with greater frequency in the Archaic period, when people became more reliant upon local wild plant food for their diet. Later, manos and metates were used to process cultivated maize.
In its early use in the American Southwest, the mano and metate were used to grind wild plants. The mano began as a one-handed tool and once cultivation of maize became more prevalent, the mano became a larger, two-handed tool that more efficiently ground food against an evolved basin or trough metate.
A mano, a smooth hand-held stone, is used against a metate, typically a large stone with a depression or bowl. The movement of the mano against the metate consists of a circular, rocking or chopping grinding motion using one or both hands.
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