Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies

Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies


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Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies by Sven Loven

When originally published in German in 1924, this volume was hailed as the first modern, comprehensive archaeological overview of an emerging area of the world. Yes, the Caribbean islands had long been known and owned, occupied, or traded among by the economically advanced nations of the world. However, the original inhabitants—as well as their artifacts, languages, and culture—had been treated by explorers and entrepreneurs alike as either slaves or hindrances to progress, and were used or eliminated. There was no publication that treated seriously the region and the peoples until this work. In the following ten years, additional pertinent publications emerged, along with a request to translate the original into Spanish. Based on those recent publications, Loven decided to update and reissue the work in English, which he thought to be the future international language of scholarship. This work is a classic, with enduring interpretations, broad geographic range, and an eager audience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780817356378
Publisher: University of Alabama Press
Publication date: 06/27/2010
Series: Caribbean Archaeology and Ethnohistory Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 728
Sales rank: 1,190,548
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

Sven Lovén (1875-1948) was a Swedish anthropologist.

L. Antonio Curet is Associate Curator of Archaeology at the Field Museum, Chicago, and coeditor of Islands at the Crossroads: Migration, Seafaring, and Interaction in the Caribbean and Tibes: People, Power, and Ritual at the Center of the Cosmos.

Read an Excerpt

Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies

By Sven Lovén

The University of Alabama Press

Copyright © 2010 The University of Alabama Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8509-5


Immigrations and Indian Elements in the West Indies.

The distance from the Antilles with their southernmost island, Grenada, to Trinidad (and Tobago) and even to the mainland of South America, is not larger than migrations from this continent to the islands could have been established by tribes possessing sufficient good crafts. Farther on there was no difficulty in crossing from one island to another along the range of the Lesser Antilles. Firstly between the northern Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands there is a gap, which ought to make traffic more difficult.

Of primitive tribes of different culture there remain nowadays in Venezuela only the Warraus in the delta of the Orinoco, another complex in the Raudal district, as well as the remnants of the Otomacos. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries primitive tribes were still found in a district situated between the Serrania del Interior and the Orinoco. Up till now archaeology, however, has not been able to prove that in the West Indies there ever lived any primitive pre-Arawak Southamerican immigrants.

Florida evidently played an important part when the northern West Indian Islands were first invaded by foreigners. It has been proved that a people coming from Florida, the Siboneyes, once settled on the coasts of Cuba from the east to the west. This was a primitive tribe that left Florida at a period previous to the settlement in this peninsula of tribes on a higher cultural stage.

Whether such a primitive tribe also penetrated into Española is a question still open to discussion. Up till now we do not know from Puerto Rico of any finds whatever originating from a primitive pre-Arawak people. Of great interest is HATT'S discovery of a settlement on the Krum Bay in St. Thomas. Its primitive inhabitants who used stone celts cannot be identic with the Cuban Siboneyes, but already the fact that ochre has been found, points to a North American origin. Unfortunately we do not know the part played by the Bahamas in the supposed pre-Arawakan migrations from North America.

The distance to cover for to reach Jamaica from Cuba or Española is so great that it may be questioned if it was possible for a primitive people to do so. Even in a big Jamaican canoe MENDEZ had great difficulty in crossing from Jamaica to Española. No undisputable finds originating from a primitive pre-Arawakan tribe living in Jamaica have hitherto been brought to light.

It is, however, a matter of fact that the Island Arawaks have practically penetrated into all the West Indian Islands. In the following I shall make a distinction between the Tainos, the Island-Arawaks living in the Greater Antilles and the Bahamas at the time of the Discovery, and the Ignéris, the Island-Arawaks inhabiting the Lesser Antilles when the Caribs immigrated. Ignéri, probably the Arawak word eyeri, "men", was a name given by the Island-Caribs to the Arawak Islanders which they conquered and extinguished. I have borrowed the term from the French authors of the 17-th century.

Leaving Trinidad aside, we know four distinct races in the West Indies properly speaking, from historical sources. The names are given in the order in which they must have immigrated.

1. Guanahatabeyes (Siboneyes)

2. Island-Arawaks.

3. Maçoriges (Ciguayos).)

4. Island-Caribs.

The Guanahatabeyes.

Only in the extreme western part of Cuba can we establish a pre-Arawak race in the Antilles at the time of the Conquest with any degree of probability. These Guanahatabeyes are mentioned in the Mission Report by LAS CASAS) and also in 1514 in VELASQUEZ' report to the King of Spain. LAS CASAS pictures them as "unos indios al cabo de Cuba, los quales son como salvajes, que en ninguna cosa tratan con los de la isla, ni tienen casas, están en cuevas contino, sino es cuando salen á pescar". Llamanse guanahacabeyes.) The report of VELASQUEZ states that a Spanish brigantine had visited the western part of Cuba. The inhabitants were described as living in the following manner: "Poniente están la una (that is provincia) se llama Guaniguanies é la otra Guanahatabibes,) que son los postreros indios dellas; y que la vivienda destos guanahatabibes es á manera de salvajes, porque no tienen casas ni pueblos, ni labranzas ni comen otra cosa sino las carnes que toman por los montes y tortugas y pescado.")

Dr. Pedro Garcia Valdes has shown that the discoverers and conquerors of Cuba were never in Pinar del Rio, that without exception none of them at any time had ever seen Guanahatabeyes, so that consequently the Spanish informants of that time lack authentic knowledge of that race. In this he is indisputably right, as well as in the assumption that the numerous finds in Pinar del Rio prove that Tainos must once have lived there. All the same, we must except the San Antonio district. The existence of a strange, primitive pre-Taino race with extension at one time over the whole island of Cuba is brought to light through Harrington's extensive investigations, and even established in Pinar del Rio. If the remnants of that older, primitive people still lived in the most western part of Cuba at the time of the Conquest, is another question. Not only did none of the conquerors have the opportunity of seeing these Guanahatabeyes, but also the information obtained from the Cuban Tainos about the general cultural standpoint of this race, does not harmonize with their proper character as established by the conclusions to which Cosculluela and Harrington came, through their excavations of the Cuban dwelling-sites. The traditions that Guanahatabeyes were still now and then found living in Pinar del Rio, as late as the middle of the nineteenth century, I cannot find confirmed by any document.) But I will mention that accounts of wild Indians killing the cattle of the colonists of Pinar del Rio with their arrows and the rewards offered for their extermination on this account, can be traced back to the beginning of the seventeenth century. It is to be assumed that they have been destroyed since then. Unfortunately I have not succeeded in finding any information about this.

MARTYR and OVIEDO, have cited troglodytes, similar to the Guanahatabeyes also in Guacayarima, the long southwestern peninsula of Española including Mornes de la Hotte. MARTYR says: "It is said that there is a district of a savana in the most westerly province of Guaccaiarima inhabited by people who only live in caverns and eat nothing but the products of the forest. They have never been civilised nor had any intercourse with any other races of men. They live, so it is said, as people did in the golden age, without fixed homes or crops or culture; neither do they have a definite language. They are seen from time to time, but it has never been possible to capture one, for if, whenever they come they see anybody other than natives approaching them, they escape with the celerity of a deer.")

The first part of the description has an indiscutible similarity to that of Velasquez of the Guanahatabeyes of Cuba; and furthermore as in its continuation information follows about bitumen "on the reefs of Hispaniola,") Cuba and not Española must have been meant.

OVIEDO says) that a very savage race lived in caves in the province of Guaicayarima. They neither sowed nor cultivated the fields, but lived from hand to mouth. All property was held in common, with the exception of their wives. "Aquesta gente fué la mas salvaje que hasta agora se ha visto en las Indias." It must be remarked that this refers to the place to which Obando advanced in Xaraguá in 1503, and that at this date, which was before his arrival to Española, Oviedo had a very limited knowledge of the island.

Fewkes cites Las Casas and Velasquez unreservedly in regard to the Guanahatabeyes in "Prehistoric Culture of Cuba", and also mentions the assertion of Martyr, that a similar race of people existed in the extreme western part of Haiti at the time of the Conquest.)

Fortunately Las Casas has lived in the towns of the province of Hanyguayabá, which includes the extreme peninsula in the southwestern part of the island of which Guacayarima is the very point. For this reason he is able to confirm that the inhabitants there were Tainos, having the same economical conditions and manner of living as the others on the island. He contradicts Oviedo and says: "mal supo lo que dijo, porque no vivian sino en pueblos y tenian sus señores que los regian, y á su modo como los demas, (namely the rest of the Haitian Tainos) su communal policía; porque áun la misma tierra, por ser como un jardin, aunque quisieran vivir selváticmente, no se lo consentiera; y ni habia cuevas ni espeluncas como él dice, presumiendo demostrar que sabe nominativos, sino muy graciosos campos y arboledas, donde tenian sus asientos de pueblos y sembraban y cogian, é yo comí hartas veces de los frutos del pan y de otras cosas que su industria y trabajos procedian. La Guacayarima, que dice ser otra distinta provincia (lo que no es) porque tiene punta della (that is, Hanyguaybá), junto á la mar, ciertas entradas o peñas, que llaman Xagueyes los indios, como en la provincia de Higuey, que los habia tan grandes, que podian vivir en ellos muchos vecinos pero no vivian sino en sus grandes pueblos; allí se escondian cuando la calamidad de los españoles los perseguia, y porque huyendo dellos, algunos allí escondidos hallarian.")

Indeed, Martyr mentions a tradition, according to which the former inhabitants of the islands (the Greater Antilles) lived on roots, palms and magueys.) But in truth this tradition could also have had a mythological significance, explaining a condition which existed before a hero of the race had discovered yuca and maize, in this manner making a myth fit the conditions in Española.)

I can cite reasons for this opinion, based on Arawak myths from the continent of South America. Among the Tarumas, an Arawak tribe in the interior of British Guiana, the legendary brothers, Ajijeko and Duid, ate only nuts and fruit in the beginning, until the first woman cut off the tail of their father, the anaconda, and out of this obtained the seeds, cuttings and fruits of the first plants to be cultivated for food.) The Paressis, also Arawaks, in ancient times ate jatoba fruit, biriti nuts, edible fungus wood and earth, until their progenitor found wild manioc roots deep in the woods and brought home the roots.)

If we turn to archeology and take into consideration HARRINGTON'S finds in Pinar del Rio, it is very obvious that he found there an exclusively typical Siboneyan culture in the San Antonio district, indeed a karstland, but whose eastern lowland has layers of soil, also surface waters and is covered with a rich overgrowth of forests and jungles. The only objects of Taino,—or perhaps rather sub-Taino—, culture which Harrington found in the San Antonio region, consisted of "two large pieces of undecorated aboriginal pottery", in Cueva Funche, a cave of otherwise pure Siboneyan culture.) They only prove that the Siboneyes lived here contemporaneously with the Tainos farther to the East. Then too, archeology does indicate that the last of the Siboneyes took refuge in the almost inaccessible forests and jungles in the northern part of the San Antonio region, and that this district was never Tainan. In other parts of Cuba, as far as has been investigated, Siboneyan as well as Taino sites exist. Indeed, occasional objects of Taino workmanship are found in sites with pure Siboneyan culture, showing that in some regions at one time the Siboneyes dwelt alongside of the Tainos. But at the time, of the Conquest, the greater part of the island had come completely made Tainan. The sites investigated by Harrington in the San Antonio region with one exception lie some distance inland, but near the Enseñada de Guadima. In regard to the settlement itself, the Siboneys were above all things dependent on near access to fresh water. The largest of these Siboneyan sites in the San Antonio district and the one that yielded the greatest abundance of finds, "The Great Midden", lies near the little lake with crystal-clear water in the Valle San Juan. Good water is also found in the caves of this region. Although the Siboneyes of the San Antonio district lived inland, they nevertheless procured their food from the sea. Their refuse contains snail and mussel shells and among them are found as well oyster and crab shells, bones of turtles and hutias; but on the other hand, Harrington does not mention the presence of fishbones) finding however beads of three kinds of fish-vertabras, more or less ground. Cosculluela calls the Siboneys veritable fish-eaters, but brings into prominence the fact that in their refuse, above all, the shells of molluscs are found.) In the San Antonio region, they seem to have been collectors of food along the shore rather than fishers. However, I do not know if access to fish was more difficult in the Enseñada de Guadima than along various other parts of the Cuban coast. As to boats, material for them could easily be procured in the forests of this region.

The differences between the Siboneyan and Taino cultures are radical and show themselves generally to be the same over the whole island. This is brought out clearly by Harrington's extensive investigations.) The Siboneyan culture is far poorer than that of the Tainos. It was a veritable shell culture. They made "the gouges" out of conch-shell, as well as vessels.

If a race uses shell as material for axe-blades, this in itself does not prove them to be primitive. Such a thing has been known to have occurred on many of the islands that once had an Island-Arawak population, which entirely lacked suitable material for the production of axes. For the same reason axes of conch-shell are very common on Barbados, where axes of stone could only be imported. One would expect to find axes of shell more general on the Bahama Islands, where suitable stone is non-existant, but because of the lively trade which the Lucayos carried on with Cuba and Española in tle period before the Discovery, they seem to have succeeded in bringing about the importation of the far more effective greenstone celts from those islands. Both upon the Greater and Lesser Antilles, where there is suitable rock for making celt and axe blades, axes of shell are found in regions along the coast where semifossil Strombus gigas occur. Evidently they are Tainan because they are found on Taino sites. The same is true on St. Croix,) on Santo Domingo,) and on Jamaica.) Scattering finds of axes of shell are made on several islands, which for the rest have rock suitable for axe blades. I can cite in addition Guadeloupe) and St. Kitts.) Only two types of axe-blades of shell are to be distinguished among those which belonged to the Tainos, Igneris or possibly Island-Caribs. On Barbados they retained a part of the spiral of the conch.) Im Thurn called this the "shoe-horn type." But otherwise everywhere, and particularily on Barbados, they have produced a flat petaloid celt type by striking off the whorl and grinding the sides.) A specimen of this type of petaloid celt, made of shell, has been excavated by Harrington from a cave at Obando, in Oriente, Cuba, which contained principally Siboneyan culture, and he is of the opinion that the celt is Siboneyan, also.) The possibility can be suggested that although the Siboneys made such axes of conch-shell, the type is also Taino and intended to imitate the petaloid axe-blades of stone. The West Indian petaloid shell celts of Strombus gigas are flat and the whorls are not very conspicuous. The diverging sides are often ground straight. The edge is not so sharp as in the Siboneyan gouges and as a usual thing it is only ground from the inside of a piece of conch-shell. On Barbados, the island which is most pointed out as having axes of shell, their development had reached so far, that with only shell for material they produced celts resembling in form the customary petaloid celts of stone of the Island-Arawaks.) Celts of shell occur also on Curaçao and Aruba, and here even with sides ground straight.) Celts or hoe blades of shell, of different forms, poorly chipped and badly ground are found in Yucatan,) where suitable material for axes is lacking except when the limestone contains flint.) But in Yucatan they seem never to have made it their aim to work out the form of the shell celts as carefully as in the Antilles or in Florida. Their principal care was that the edge should be ground quite sharp.

Florida's western and southwestern Keys lack stone and they have made large axes or hoes of the entire Fulgur Perversum. But in Florida, as well as in other of the Southeastern States, they copied stone axeblade types in shell.) They made use of this material in Florida because there is no suitable stone accessible. Certainly no stone celts were found in the shell-mounds investigated by WYMAN in the St. John's River district in Florida. But there they treated shell exactly as if it were stone. Therefore, knowledge of stone-axes was not lacking.


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Table of Contents

Preface XI

List of abbreviations, Terminology IX

Chapter I Immigrations and Indian Elements in the West Indies 1

The Guanahatabeyes 3

The Arawak Race on the Continent 27

Paria 29

Trinidad 32

The Mazoriges or Ciguayos in Northeastern Santo Domingo 42

The Calinas in Contact with the Tainos in the Antilles 51

The Transmarine Communication of the Tainos with Yucatan 58

Florida 61

Haiti known in Cumaná and Paria, Intercourse among the Tainos 68

The Territorial Extension of the Cacicazgos, Puerto Rico 71

Española 72

Higuey 73

The Territory of the Maçoriges 74

Maguá 75

Marien 76

Maguana 77

Xaraguá 78

Cuba 79

Jamaica 84

The Bahamas 85

Chapter II Ancient Indian Monuments in the West Indies 86

Plazas 86

Middens and Shell Heaps 100

Caves, Caves as Dwellings and Places of Resort 120

Burial Caves 123

Shrines 125

Chapter III Stone Artifacts, Celts, Adzes, and Axes. Flint Artifacts 135

Celts 136

Trinidad 143

Lesser Antilles, Tobago 144

Grenada, St. Vincent 145

St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Barbados 147

St. Kitts-Nevis 148

Virgin Islands and St. Croix 149

Vieques, Puerto Rico 150

Española, Bahamas 151

Cuba, Jamaica 152

Hafting of the celts 153

Monolithic axes: Cuba 155

Puerto Rico, Española, Bahama Islands, Guadeloupe, Tennessee 156

Alabama, Arkansas, Coast between Santa Marta and Rio Hacha, Mosquito Coast, Nicaragua Highland 157

Engraved Celts: St. Thomas, Española, Cuba 162

Bahamas 163

The Grinding of Butt until Flat, Conclusions about the Distribution of Celts in the West Indies 165

Grooved West Indian Celts: St. Vincent, Dominica, Guadeloupe, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo 170

Axes 171

Trinidad 183

Lesser Antilles, Barbados, Grenada 184

St. Vincent 185

St. Lucia, Martinique and Dominica, Guadeloupe 190

St. Kitts-Nevis 192

St. Croix 195

Puerto Rico, Española 196

Cuba 197

The axe with marginal notches 198

The T-form axe 203

Native factors in the genesis of the Axe 207

Flint 210

Guadeloupe 211

St. Kitts, Cuba 212

Santo Domingo 215

Caicos Islands 218

Jamaica 219

The Flint Culture on the Antilles 222

Chapter IV Ceramics 224

Ancon 227

Northern Argentine 228

The Parana Delta, Chimay 229

Teffé 230

Manaos 231

Baixo Iriry and Santarem 232

Venezuela 234

Lake Tacarigua 235

Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire 237

Margarita 239

The Coast regions of northern British Guiana 240

The more recent pottery in Venezuela and Guiana, The Orinoco 245

True Caribs in Guiana, Guaribiche 248

The Island-Caribs 249

The pottery of the Island-Arawaks: Trinidad 250

Barbados 258

Grenada and the Grenadines 259

St. Vincent 262

Guadeloupe 264

St. Kitts-Nevis 265

Virgin Islands 271

Vieques, Puerto Rico 278

Española 287

Cuba 313

The Buhama Islands 320

Jamaica 322

Influences on Tainan Ceramics from Southeastern States 327

Summary 333

Chapter V Towns and houses 336

Chapter VI Agriculture. Culture-Plants 350

Agriculture 350

Manioc 358

Ages, Batatas 368

Yahutia, Arrow-root 369

Maize 370

Metates 376

Puerto Rico, Cuba 380

Without information as to origin 381

Rep. of Haiti, Santo Domingo or Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico 382

Peanuts, Beans 385

Tobacco 386

Coca 398

Cotton 400

Other plants for spinning and twisting 401

Gardens and fruits 402

Summary of fruit trees 404

Pineapple 405

Spices 406

Plants furnishing colours for body-painting 407

Goaconax, Herbs used in washing. Cultivated medicinal herbs 408

Calabashes, Wild plants used by the Tainos 409

Rubber, Yuca dulce 412

Chapter VII Navigation, boats, oars, fishing, hunting, and weapons 414

Fishing 420

Hunting 431

Preparation of fish and meat 438

Aparatus for striking fire 439

Meals, Weapons 440

Spear-Throwers 441

Bow 446

Arrows 449

Clubs 451

Tactics of war 453

Chapter VIII Household Furniture 455

The duho 455

Hammocks 457

Loom 458

Utensils 459

Baskets 461

Mats 462

Chapter IX Gold. Ornaments. Dress. Treatment of the body. Musical instruments 463

Guanin 468

Silver and copper 473

Stone beads 474

Shell fretwork and engraving 479

Deformation of head 488

Modes of hairdressing, Body Painting 490

Tattooing, Musical instruments 492

Maraca 493

Drums, Wind instruments 495

Chapter X Social Conditions 498

Classes of society and rank 498

Naborias 499

The Commoners 501

The Tainos 502

The Caziques 503

Dance and festivals 519

The game of ball 524

Mariage and sexual conditions 526

Prostitution 528

Transvestites 529

Division of work 532

Crime and Punishment 533

Diseases and means of cure 535

Chapter XI Burial Customs 541

Burial customs with general diffusion on the Tainan islands.

A Direct burials with the skeleton in a contracted sitting or flexed position.

a In excavated graves 544

b Burial in crouching posture within a raised mound 546

c Cacique-burial in a grave furnished with wooden supports, over which is an arch of branches topped with earth. The cacique sits on a duho 549

d Direct burial in caves with the skeleton in flexed position 551

B Secondary Tainan head burials

a The head in basket kept under the roof of the hut

b The head in clay vessel in a cave 552

c The head without receptacle in caves

d Skulls in a row on a bed in cave, bones underneath

II. Local forms of burial, originating from the Southern States

1 Burial in midden in an inverted clay bowl, especially of child 553

2 Bundle Burial Cremation 555

Chapter XII Religion 560

The idea of God 563

Man's first appearance on earth 565

The people of the mythical age 567

Conceptions as to souls and post-existences 573

Medicine-men 575

Zemíism and zemí figures 578

Cotton images 597

Wooden images: Santo Domingo, Cuba, Jamaica 598

The West Indies 599

Stone images 603

Monoliths, Immovable stone images 605

Figurines: Jamaica, Cuba Caico, Islands, Santo Domingo 607

Puerto Rico, St. Croix 608

Pottery idols 614

Ceremonial purifications 620

Cultus 624

Masks 625

Masks of shell, Stone masks and stone heads 626

Three-pointers 628

Stone collars 633

Elbow stones 640

Pestles 641

Earthenware pestles, Zemíistic ornamentation 645

Earthenware stamps: Cuba, Santo Domingo 646

Puerto Rico, St. Croix, St. Vincent, Barbados, Grenadines, Trinidad 647

Roller stamps 649

Flat stamps 650

Summary 657

Addenda 697

1 On effects of tobacco

2 The myth of Women's Island

Plates I-XIX

Map Showing the Indian West Indies

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