MATERIAL: Coral
DIMENSIONS: Width: 18 ½ inches
COMPONENTS: A massive single piece of coral carved in a wide oval.
CONDITION: In very good condition, assembled from three large original parts, repaired break lines visible.
NOTES: Provenance:
Robert & Carolyn Nelson Collection
David Bernstein Fine Art, New York, NY
ITEM ID: 4770

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Taino Coral Yoke

DATE
Notes: c. 1000-1400 AD

Stone yokes of the Taino were most likely status symbols or ball game trophies. They are not necessarily found in funerary contexts.

The Taíno are an indigenous people of the Caribbean. At the time of European contact in the late fifteenth century, they were the principal inhabitants of most of Cuba, Hispaniola (the Dominican Republic and Haiti), Jamaica, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas and the northern Lesser Antilles. The Taíno were the first New World peoples to be encountered by Christopher Columbus during his 1492 voyage. They spoke the Taíno language, an Arawakan language.

A direct translation of the word “Taíno” signified “men of the good”. Additionally, the name was used by the indigenous people of Hispaniola to indicate that they were “relatives”. Taíno society was divided into two classes: naborias (commoners) and nitaínos (nobles). These were governed by male chiefs known as caciques, who inherited their position through their mother’s noble line.

The Taíno played a ceremonial ball game called batey. Opposing teams had 10 to 30 players per team and used a solid rubber ball. Normally, the teams were composed of men, but occasionally women played the game as well. The Classic Taíno played in the village’s center plaza or on especially designed rectangular ball courts called batey. Games on the batey are believed to have been used for conflict resolution between communities. The most elaborate ball courts are found at chiefdom boundaries. Often, chiefs made wagers on the possible outcome of a game.

Taíno spoke an Arawakan language and used an early form of writing Proto-writing in the form of petroglyph.

Some words that they used, such as barbacoa (“barbecue”), hamaca (“hammock”), kanoa (“canoe”), tabaco (“tobacco”), yuca, batata (“sweet potato”), and juracán (“hurricane”), have been incorporated into Spanish and English.