Taino Sections

The people of the Greater Antilles belonged to a common Taíno culture. They were nonetheless separated by the sea and developed independently. The Taíno of Haytí their ancestral home and Borriquen (Puerto Rico) were much larger and more complex societies were activities were specialised. Those of Jamaica, Cuba and the Bahamas consisted of relatively small, more dispersed groups. In Haytí there was a degree of collective organisation and a refinement in the objects they made. From there, the Taínos extended their regional influence, settling and maintaining trade.

OVERVIEW OF Taíno Culture


A possible example of Taíno regional trade, the stone used to make this and similar Metate recovered in Jamaica is not found in the island. This suggests that it was brought through trade from Central America.

Like their neighbours, Jamaica’s Taíno learnt to take advantage of the bounty of the island. They knew when to collect foods from the wild, how and where best to plant their crops and made tools and materials to harvest and store them. Men and women devised techniques to capture and weapons to hunt birds, reptiles and fish and Jamaica’s few small animals. They also made utensils to prepare, cook and eat with.

Taíno Economy
Taíno Beliefs


Zemis were rafted from materials such as wood, stone, coral and cotton. They represented spirits and were venerated regularly with foods, herbs and perfumes. Each Zemi had its own name, personality and powers and likenesses of them decorate caves, jewellery, tools and utencils. They strengthened those who kept them.

Arrow Head

This arrowhead was made from flint. It would have been used for fishing, hunting and as a weapon against enemies.

Based on a simple story of origin, the Taíno filled their world with spirit beings. In their honour, an array of myths and described their dependence on their gods. All that the Taínos thought, did and made had a spiritual connection.

Mother Atabey, the creator, who gave birth to the gods Yucáhu and Guacar, gave all the heavens to Yucáhu whom she loved. He then lit the Earth with the sun and the moon, Boinayel and Maroya, while Guacar jealousy hid in the shadows. Yucáhu created all the spirits, the plants and the animals. From a cave in Haytí called Cacibajagua, Locuo – human-beings – lastly emerged. Yucáhu then left the world to them, and men and women freely roamed the Earth in joy and thanks.


For over a thousand years, Taíno culture took shape in the Caribbean, until chanced on by European adventurers. Rightfully wary of the intruders, they tried to scare off the Spanish with their weapons to protect their way of life. Unable to deter them, within just ten years Jamaica’s Taíno culture was decimated. In Haytí there was an attempt to fend off the invaders, but this wasn’t possible in smaller communities like Jamaica’s. Only flight or suicide could prevent their enslavement, rape and torture.