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HOME : Pre-Columbian Art : Art of the Dominican Republic : Taino Stone Trigonolitos
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Taino Stone Trigonolitos - AM.0083
Origin: Dominican Republic
Circa: 1000 AD to 1500 AD
Dimensions: 7" (17.8cm) high x 14.1" (35.8cm) wide
Collection: Pre-Columbian
Style: Taino
Medium: Stone
Condition: Fine

Location: Great Britain
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The Taino flourished in the Caribbean between c.1200-1500. They were the first Americans to make contact with the Spanish in 1492 and to suffer as a result. Many of the features today associated with the Taino, such as ball-courts and three-pointers, were first used by their predecessors who migrated to the islands from both South America and Mesoamerica. As society became more organised under the Taino, the political system increased in complexity and agricultural production intensified. Artistic creativity also flourished. Earlier three-pointers were often undecorated and small in size. During the Taino heyday they became increasingly important to public ritual and therefore larger and more intricate. The central cone of these triangular objects has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Suggestions include manioc shoots (one of the main crops of the Taino), volcanoes, the roofs of Taino houses, phalluses and the human breast. None of these theories has been universally accepted and the precise origins of the shape are likely to remain a mystery. Despite this many scholars agree that these ceremonial objects were symbols of power and fertility. This is supported by a letter written by Columbus in which he reports on his findings among the Taino, ‘Equally the majority of caciques (chiefs) have three stones to which they and their people have great devotion. One they say is for the fertility of the grain and vegetables that they grow; the next for mothers to give birth without pain, and the third for the water and sun when they have need.’

Taino stone carvings were worked with two types of tool: bone and flint chisels and a taut chord that cut through the stone with the aid of water and fine sand. The creator of this three-pointer obviously delighted in the natural veining of the pale green/cream stone. The anterior end depicts a face that has both anthropomorphic and zoomorphic features. The sunken circular eye-sockets and the wide mouth could be human but the nose resembles a snout. Behind the face is a band of geometric designs. A second band of lightly incised interlocking triangles runs up the vertical axis and down the other side. The posterior end is carved with a pair of hunched, frog-like legs. This position is found on other Taino artifacts – including pestles which depict figures in a crouching pose. It seems to represent a trance-like state that was brought on by the inhalation of the hallucinogenic cohoba. Although the mystery of the function of three- pointers remains to be solved, they offer a unique insight into the spiritual lives of the Taino people. (AM) - (AM.0083)


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