Curator’s Talk

Over thousands of years, the indigenous peoples of the Americas developed diverse ways of life and adapted to their environments so they could thrive.

Throughout Jamaica’s colonial history and since, Taíno artefacts have been recovered and collected – some by chance, privately, some by professional archaeologists – of which some made their way into the National Collection.


Once analysed and described the object becomes evidence of the foods they ate and how they prepared terraced fields to cultivate is understood. We know the kinds of stones they used and that most stone tools while locally made, some were traded from other islands or the mainland.

Unable to speak directly or give their points of view, Taíno objects offer for us the most intimate account possible of their lives.

Their objects represent the day-to-day activities that filled their lives and thoughts. They fabricated tools, utensils and weapons. With them they prepared fields and planted crops. They spun thread, made nets and sinkers to catch fish. They chose clays to shape pots to cook and to eat from. They selected stones, shaped and polished them to make axes and celts and amulets and zemis to wear and to adorn their shrines.

For a thorough appreciation of any object, a precise knowledge of criteria such as: where found, who, what, when and how made and all related historic data available is essential.

National Museum Jamaica’s exhibition, entitled Who Were the Taíno?, presents artefacts and narrative storyboards that interpret the life-ways and heritage of Jamaica’s historic indigenous population. The exhibit provides a location for our visitors, especially school-goers, to view and interact with some of the remarkable objects they made and used, which have been recovered from Taíno archaeological sites in the island.