Nov 14, 2009

Ceremonial Stools and Judgment Seats II

It has recently come to my attention that not only have ceremonial stools in the

form of metates, or grinding stones, been found in the Atlantic watershed of Costa Rica, but also in the Chiriqui region of western Panama. The Peabody Museum at Yale University has had a collection of antiquities from Chiriqui since the 1860s. However, it seems that it is not very well known and is not normally mentioned in the reports. A book was written on this collection i
n 1911 (A study of Chiriquian antiquities by George Grant MacCurdy) which contains a wealth of information on western Panamanian archaeology, and now much of the collection is also available for
viewing online ( ).

A large number of these Chiriquian stools are preserved in the collection, some of clay, and many of stone. I have presented several of these examples. The ruler shown is in centimeters.

Many are similar to those from Costa Rica, but the majority are not in the form of metates, but are actual stools likely used for ceremonial purposes.

This sculpture illustrates a man sitting on one of
the stools, possibly a judge sitting on his judgement seat.

When the site of Barriles, in western Panama, was originally investigated

by Matthew Sterling in the mid 1900s, one of the artifacts he found was a large, metate style, seat or bench. This is now in the national museum in Panama City.

What is the significance of these finds? In my opinion they establish a link between the Chiriqui region of western Panama and the Altlanic Watershed of Costa Rica. I have theorized that these stools were in fact the “judgment seats” spoken of in the Book of Mormon. Each city and village would have had their own “judge” whose capacity was to settle disputes, resolve conflicts and punish offenders. Their badge of authority was their “judgment seat”, or stool, which was their personal possession. It also appears that these stools were buried with the owner when he passed on.
I have earlier postulated that the original City of Nephi was located in the Chiriqui region of Panama, and that Zarahemla and Bountiful were located in north-central Costa Rica. When the Nephites emigrated from Nephi to Zarahemla they would have carried this tradition with them. This link between ceremonial stools in Chiriqui and those in Costa Rica would tend to confirm this hypothesis.