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1 - The Taino

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 November 2023

Kenneth Morgan
Affiliation:
Brunel University
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Summary

The Taino migrated to Jamaica from South America in broad waves between AD 600 and 900. They organised communities throughout Jamaica, preferring defendable hilltop settlements. Practising communal living under the leadership of caciques, the Taino forged a rich culture in which they excelled at woodcarving, pottery and making stone implements. Surviving rock art in caves testifies to their artistic skills. They undertook daily food gathering, picking fruits and seeds, fishing and planting root crops in conucos. Many crops they cultivated, including cassava, have had a lasting impact on the Jamaican diet.

The Taino believed in numerous deities and the afterlife and maintaining contact with the spirit world through possession of artefacts known as zemis and ritual cohoba ceremonies. As they left no written records and their language is extinct, knowledge of Taino culture in Jamaica is confined to knowledge of their settlements, artisan skills, rock art and religious practices. A revival of interest in the Tainos’ foundational role in Jamaican history has recently occurred. In May 2019 the Institute of Jamaica celebrated Taino Day with a series of talks and activities. In the following month a Taino cacique was installed in Jamaica for the first time in half a millennium.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • The Taino
  • Kenneth Morgan, Brunel University
  • Book: A Concise History of Jamaica
  • Online publication: 23 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108633765.002
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  • The Taino
  • Kenneth Morgan, Brunel University
  • Book: A Concise History of Jamaica
  • Online publication: 23 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108633765.002
Available formats
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Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • The Taino
  • Kenneth Morgan, Brunel University
  • Book: A Concise History of Jamaica
  • Online publication: 23 November 2023
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108633765.002
Available formats
×