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From: Mr. Ramon Rivera <cultural-affairs@TAINO-TRIBE.ORG>
Subject: Forward:Taino-Maya Contacts

From: Paul E. Pettennude (pettennude@usa.net)
Subject: Forward:Taino-Maya Contacts
y Newsgroups: sci.archaeology.mesoamerican
View complete thread (2 articles)
Date: 1996/12/16

Taino-Maya Contacts

By Francisco J. Gonzalez <gonzalez@blue.usa.com,>,
16 December 1996

In Puerto Rico, archeologists had for years debated the topic of pre-Columbian contacts among Native peoples of the Caribbean basin are. The Taino (Arawak) people that inhabited the Greater Antilles (the islands of Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica and Hispaniola), exhibit some cultural traits that are not present among other Arawakian peoples in their South American homeland: ball courts/ ball game (batey / batu), similar to the Mesoamerican game; stone carving and stone building practices; The Taino word for their war club, macana; similar to the Aztec word for their swords: maquahiutl. some ritual/religious practices; social organization (structure of chief (cacike); sub-chiefs (nitainos); commoners (naborias).

Among latter-day Mesoamericans (Toltecs, Aztecs, Post-Classic Maya) we also find possible Taino-Arawak traits, such as the cultivation of the yucca (manioc) plant; the use of the hammock (Taino hamaca); the use of the Taino word uracan for sea storms (hurricane), that in Taino mythology refers to the evil god who raises storms to injure people.

Dr. Ricardo Alegria, the father of modern Puerto Rican archaeology, had stressed the lack of evidence for direct Mesoamerica-Taino contacts, indicating that similarities in words, practices and tools/artifacts can be explained as contacts that occurred after the Spanish conquest, or to information that was passed across land trade routes from nation to nation until it arrived , 3rd hand, to the Taino or Mesoamericans. Also, to date, there hasn't been found a single Mesoamerican artifact (potsherd, stone carving, etc.) in a pre-Columbian setting anywhere in the Greater Antilles.

However, in the last 20 years several archaeological finds have hinted at the possibility of direct, overseas trade between the Taino and Mesoamericans (Yucatec Maya): finds of Ecuadorian & Colombian made jewelry in Vieques (small island to the eats of PR) is definite proof of trade routes linking the Taino and the coastal peoples of South America. (Objects from the same source were recovered at the Chichen Itza cenote). William Ratje, on Scientific American (1975) described at length the rise of sea-borne trade during the Maya Post-Classic, carried on by Mexicanized Putun Maya based on Cozumel island.

Spanish chronicles also describe the sailing skills of the Taino and their distant relatives the Caribe (who had displaced the Taino from the Eastern Caribbean and were settling parts of Puerto Rico). Caribe war parties, sailing from the Virgin Islands, raided Spanish & Taino settlements as far west as Cuba. Bernal Diaz del Castillo, member of the Grijalva expedition to Cozumel island in 1517, described that the Spanish met several Tainos captives of the Maya. Some Spanish knew the Taino language and found from the captives that they were originally from Jamaica.

It is possible that direct trade between the Taino/Caribe and the Maya, occurring late (from the 1200's until the Spanish conquest) and dealing on perishable items ( feathers, jaguar pelts, cotton cloth, slaves) or raw materials (unworked gold, jade, etc.) could account for the cultural similarities among the Taino and Mesoamerica.