In Lost Kingdoms of Central America episode 2 “The People who Greeted Columbus,” Jago Cooper explores the Taino civilization. This civilization was the one that greeted Columbus. It was where primitive life met progress. This discovery had an impact on history. New archeology has revealed the Taino people’s secrets. Dr. Cooper has been working in the Dominican Republic for 15 years and is helping with those discoveries.
The first evidence emerges in the Dominican Republic. Dr. Cooper, along with several guides and additional archeologists go deep into the jungle. The jungle has hidden and protected the secrets of the Taino people. The Taino believed they came from the heart of the Caribbean islands. Dr. Cooper explores a cave at the heart of this story. Here they discover pictographs left behind by the Taino people. The pictographs tell Taino’s story in their own words.
The first immigrants came from Central America and Florida. When they settled in the Caribbean islands, they developed myths about their origins. The Taino Myth asserts they originated there and they are rooted there. These beliefs helped them create a sense of belonging. Dr. Cooper then heads to a private museum to explore more about the Taino people. What fascinates Dr. Cooper is how the Taino modified their skulls.
The Taino were a highly sophisticated civilization. They began as a fisherman. Then the Taino built villages. They shared values and ideas. Around 900 AD, the Taino culture was forming. Cooper goes into a village site of one of the largest Taino settlements. This community thrived. The artifacts show how sophisticated they were. They decorated their house, they were very “house proud.” The Taino made high-quality objects.
Like most, civilizations there was a population that needed to be fed. How did the Taino feed their people? The Taino grew corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes. Cassava was made into bread. It could be left in the ground for three years without spoiling. That was an interesting fact to find out about cassava. Even today, the locals still make cassava bread. They even make cassava pancakes. Dr. Jago enjoys the delicacy. The jungle was also a great source of food for the people. They never forgot their fishing roots either and fished as well. The Taino had one foot on land and one foot on the sea.
Cooper creates an idyllic picture of the Taino. They were isolated people on their island paradise. The Taino were well fed and they did not fight with each other. Cooper immediately shatters this myth. The Caribbean Sea was their highway. The Taino were a water people after all. The Taino culture spread from village to village as well as island to island. Even though they were scattered through the islands of the Caribbean, they managed to stay united.
The Taino villages were run by a cacique. They were political, economic, religious leaders. Even after the cacique died, their people still took care of their spirits. Dr. Cooper heads to Puerto Rico to explore the religious life of the Taino. He goes to one of the earliest religious sites in Puerto Rico. The Taino created religious icons that could be carried with them or left at religious sites.
To continue to learn more about the Taino continue to watch the documentary “The Peoples who Greeted Columbus.”
There are sound issues with the documentary I found. There may be a better quality one on YouTube and if you find it, use it in a classroom. This is a fantastic documentary on people I have never learned about in school. The first time I heard about the Taino was in the Royal Diaries’ Anacaona. This would be a documentary I would share with a classroom.
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