Zemís, religious sculptures made of many materials
including wood, stone, ceramic, bone, and shell, and
in many forms from small to large, as here, were the
most important objects produced by Taino society.
The zemí is understood to be an object of
concentrated power able to affect its owner both
positively and negatively with regard to productivity
and fertility as well as in political and social realms.
Depictions of an ancestor or deity, zemís were kept in
sacred areas set apart from the houses of their
owners. The zemí in the shape of a crouched,
emaciated human figure with a platelike surface on
the top of the head is thought to have been used in
ceremonies that included the taking of hallucinogenic
snuff, or cohoba. The snuff was placed on top of the
zemí and inhaled into the nostrils through small
tubes. The altered states of consciousness induced
by the snuff were important to divination and curing
rituals, among others.