Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00091746/00003
 Material Information
Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Series Title: Journal of Caribbean archaeology
Alternate Title: JCA
Abbreviated Title: J. Caribb. archaelo.
Physical Description: Serial
Language: English
Publisher: Christopher Ohm Clement ;
Christopher Ohm Clement
William F. Keegan
Place of Publication: Gainesville FL
Publication Date: 2002
Frequency: annual
Subject: Archaeology -- Periodicals -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Antiquities -- Periodicals -- Caribbean Area   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
System Details: Mode of access: World Wide Web.
Dates or Sequential Designation: Vol. 1 (2000)-
General Note: Title from title screen (publisher's Web site, viewed Dec. 2, 2002).
General Note: Latest issue consulted: Vol. 5 (2004).
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00091746
Volume ID: VID00003
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 003345617
oclc - 41077527
lccn - sn 99003684
issn - 1524-4776


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Charles D. Beeker
Office of Underwater Science
Department of Recreation and Park Administration
HPER 133
Indiana University
1025 East 7th Street
Bloomington, IN 47405-7109
cbeeker@ indiana.edu

Geoffrey W. Conrad
William Hammond Mathers Museum
Indiana University
601 East 8th Street
Bloomington, IN 47408-3812
conrad@ indiana.edu

John W. Foster
California State Parks
PO Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296-0001

The southeastern region of the Dominican Republic is characterized by karst topography with
numerous caves and sinkholes. In 1492 this sector of the island of Hispaniola was occupied by
the Taino chiefdom of Higiiey. The local Taino population used subterranean chambers for a
variety of purposes. Two such sites, the Padre Nuestro complex and the Manantial de la Aleta,
provide insights into Taino use of water-filled caverns. The Cueva de Chicho and other caves in
the Padre Nuestro complex served as sources of water. In contrast, the Manantial de la Aleta
sinkhole seems to have been a regional ritual center connected with ancestor worship.

Caves were important places in Taino
culture, and cave sites have been reported from
various parts of the island of Hispaniola (e.g.,
Krieger 1929, 1931; L6pez Belando 1997,
2002; Lov6n 1935; Pagin Perdomo and Jim6nez
Lambertus 1983; Veloz Maggiolo et al. 1977, to
name only a few of many possible references).
Nonetheless, only a relatively few cave sites have
been adequately documented, and even fewer
have been scientifically reported in any detail.
As a consequence, our current knowledge of the
Taino use of caves is incomplete and is largely

derived from ethnohistorical sources and dry
cave sites containing rock art or burials.

Our goal here is to help increase
understanding of the multiple roles of caves in
the Taino world by presenting some new
evidence, particularly on the archaeology of
caverns that are partially flooded because they
are connected to subterranean aquifers. Our
emphasis is on the southeastern tip of
Hispaniola, particularly the zone occupied by the
Dominican Republic's East National Park

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
(Parque Nacional del Este) and its immediate
surroundings (Figure 1).


The southeastern part of the Dominican
Republic is a limestone peninsula of Pleistocene
origin. From the air it appears as a low-lying
coastal plain that drops off to the Caribbean by a
series of marine terraces (Sauer 1966:45; Veloz
Maggiolo 1972:36-37). The region has a humid
tropical savanna climate (Veloz Maggiolo
1972:60), and today much of the local landscape
consists of low-profile, clear-cut agricultural
land. In contrast, the southeastern tip of the
peninsula, the modern East National Park, is
covered by a low-canopy tropical forest (Figure

In 1492 southeastern Hispaniola was
occupied by the aboriginal chiefdom of Higuiey,
one of the five principal cacicazgos of the island
at the time of European contact (Las Casas
1967:I:22-26).'1 As Samuel Wilson (1990:108-
111) argues, the boundaries of Hispaniola's late
prehistoric cacicazgos fluctuated and are not
really definable, but their core areas were more
stable and are easier to demarcate. The East
National Park and its environs were part of the
core area of Higiley
(Wilson 1990:14-15, ,Florda\
Figure 2).2 |

A notable feature of
the park region is its
karst topography. The
landscape contains
hundreds of caves and
sinkholes formed by
fresh water that has
percolated through the
limestone bedrock.
Some of these caverns
are dry caves, while
others are connected to
underground aquifers
and are filled with water
to varying degrees.
Many of the caves were
used by local Taino

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
groups and are now archaeological sites.
Nonetheless, only a few of the known cave sites-
-for example, the Cueva de Berna (Veloz
Maggiolo et al. 1977) and the Cueva Maria Sosi
(Luna Calder6n 1982)--have been documented
in any detail, and it also seems safe to assume
that many cave sites have yet to be discovered.

Since August 1996 we have been
investigating sites in and around the East
National Park as part of larger project involving
collaboration between Dominican and North
American scholars. In the course of this work
we have conducted preliminary studies of
several flooded caverns, most notably the Cueva
de Chicho (at Padre Nuestro in Figure 1) and
the Manantial de la Aleta. Our preliminary data
indicate that these two sites served different
purposes and had different meanings and
significance for the Taino population of the

Caves in Taino Culture

Caves served a variety of purposes in Taino
culture (Lov6n 1935:120-134). They were used
as places for burials and for rock art, both
petroglyphs and pictographs. Caves also served
as temporary refuges (Las Casas 1985:11:267).

Figure 1. Map of the Caribbean Basin showing the locations of sites mentioned in
the text. The Cueva de Chicho is part of the Padre Nuestro complex.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

figure 2. 1 typical vegetation and karst topography in the

There is no evidence that the Classic Tainos of
the Greater Antilles lived in caves for extended
periods, however, and they may have considered
cave-dwelling to be a sign of savagery or
subhumanity (Las Casas, cited in Lov6n 1935:3,
Sauer 1966:184; Martyr d'Anghiera 1989:366;
Oviedo 1959:I:83).3

Caves figure prominently in Tafno
mythology as it is known from the Catalan friar
Ramon Pan6's (1999) late fifteenth-century
report. Pane's Account of the Antiquities of the
Indians relates that the Tainos believed the first
peoples of Hispaniola came from two caves in a
mountain named Cauta. The ancestral Tainos
emerged from one cave, Cacibajagua, while the
ancestors of the non-Taino peoples came out of
another, Amayaina. The first Tainos lived in
Cacibajagua for some time before going forth to
settle other parts of Hispaniola (Pan6 1999:5-
6).4 Likewise, Pan6 (1999:17) says that the
Tainos believed the Sun and the Moon emerged
from a cave called Iguanaboina.5

Caves were also intimately associated with
the spirits of the ancestors, whose veneration
was a central element of Taino religion (Arrom
1975:108-109; Oliver 1997:148-150; Pane

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
1999:18-21; Roe
1997:154-155; Siegel
1997; Stevens-Arroyo
1988:59-62).6 The
Tafnos conceived of a
universe consisting of
three layers united by a
vertical axis mundi
(Siegel 1997:108,
Figure 1). The earth's
surface lay in the
middle, with the
celestial vault above.
The bottom layer was a
watery underworld
known as Coaybay,
"the house and
dwelling place of the
dead" (Pan6 1999:17-
18).7 Access between
East National Park. the earth's surface and
the underworld was by way of sacred caves,
which served as portals to Coaybay and the
ancestors (Siegel 1997:108; Stevens-Arroyo

There is another connection between caves
and the ancestors. Caves are homes to colonies
of bats. The Tainos believed that the spirits of
the dead, the opias, remained hidden during the
day but came out at night to eat the fruits of the
guava tree (Psidium guajava) (Pan6 1999:18-
19).8 To do this the spirits transformed
themselves into bats, one of the most frequently
depicted animals in Taino art (Garcia Ar6valo
1984, 1997; Morbin Laucer 1988).

Some caves had other cosmological
meanings and associations. Peter Martyr
d'Anghiera wrote that the Tainos conceived of
the island of Hispaniola itself as a monstrous
living beast of the female sex (Martyr
d'Anghiera 1989:629).9 Basing his
interpretations on the description of the beast
and data on water-filled sinkholes from Peter
Martyr and Las Casas (1967:I:24; Martyr
d'Anghiera 1989:366), Peter Harris argues
convincingly that the head of this earth monster
was at the eastern end of the island, in the
chiefdom of Higtiey.1 Furthermore, Harris

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
suggests, two specific sinkhole caverns in
Highiey may have been seen as the beast's eyes
(Harris 1994:10-11; see also Keegan et al.
1998:233-234, Figure 9.3).

Taino Cave Use in the East National Park

In view of the mythological importance of
caves, it is not surprising that some caves in the
East National Park contain evidence of Taino
ritual activities. Following Roy Rappaport, we
define ritual as "the performance of more or
less invariant sequences of formal acts and
utterances not entirely encoded by the
performnners" (Rappaport 1999:24, emphasis in
the original). Like Rappaport (1999:38-39), we
do not make a distinction between "ritual" and

Figure 3. Anthropormorphic petroglyph in the Cueva
Pefion Gordo (also known as the Cueva Panchito).

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
"ceremony," and we will treat the two terms as
synonymous. In contrast, we note that "ritual"
and "religion" are not synonymous: not all ritual
is religious, nor is all religious behavior ritual
(Rappaport 1999:24-25).

Insofar as caves are concerned, most of the
archaeological remains that are usually
interpreted as the results of ritual activities have
been found in dry caverns. These remains take
two forms, rock art and burials. Rock art
consists of both petroglyphs and pictographs.
Petroglyphs (Figure 3) typically occur in areas
where sunlight is available, usually near cave
entrances (e.g., in the Cueva de Chicho, Cueva
de Berna, and Cueva Pefion Gordo).
Pictographs are usually situated within the
deeper confines of caves and are often more
elaborate than petroglyphs. For example, the
Jos6 Maria Cave in the East National Park
contains over 1,200 pictographs (Figure 4) and
is one of the most notable rock art caves ever
documented in the Antilles (Conrad et al. 1997;
L6pez Belando 1997). None of the rock art in
the East National Park has been dated directly,
but parallels to myths recorded by Pan6 (1999)
and a possible depiction of a Spanish ship in the
Jos6 Maria Cave (L6pez Belando 1997) make a
Taino attribution likely.

In addition to rock art, Taino burials have
also been found in a number of caves in the East
National Park--for example, the Cueva Maria
Sosa (Luna Calder6n 1982). The dating of the
burials is more secure than that of the rock art
because of the artifacts directly associated with
the former.

If the data from dry caves have limitations,
Taino use of water-filled caverns for subsistence
and ceremonial activities has been even more
obscure. Until recently there has been little
investigation of this type of cave." Yet these
underwater sites have certain advantages. For
one thing, they can sometimes provide better
preservation than adjacent terrestrial sites. Also,
they are often less accessible and have been
subjected to less damage through development
and looting. Our ongoing investigations of
such sites are providing new insights into Taino

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Figure 4. Pictographs in the Jos6 Maria Cave.
culture and ritual behavior. Our data identify the
Cueva de Chicho and other caverns in the Padre
Nuestro complex as sources of water for
drinking, cooking, and other mundane purposes.
In contrast, at present the Manantial de la Aleta
sinkhole appears to be a unique regional ritual
center connected with ancestor worship.

The Padre Nuestro

The Padre Nuestro
complex is a series of
sinkholes situated 3.4
km east of the coastal
town of Bayahibe and
3.6 km northeast of the
Club Viva Dominicus
resort, near the East
National Park but not
inside its boundaries
(Figure 1). The
individual caverns in
the complex include El
Toro, Padre Nuestro,
Cueva Brujo, and
Cueva de Chicho.
Today the primary use -

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
of Padre Nuestro is to
support tourism by
supplying water to
hotels in the Bayahibe-
Dominicus area, which
is undergoing rapid
Likewise, in prehistoric
times some of the
caverns could have
been sources of fresh
water for nearby Tafno

The most
significant cave in the
Padre Nuestro complex
is the Cueva de Chicho.
The entrance to Chicho
is a steep slope that
descends 25 m to a
freshwater pool in an underground chamber
(Figures 5, 6). The chamber is 30 m wide and
20 m high, with some sunlight available through
the cave mouth during the day. The underwater
pool itself is 8 m wide by 20 m long and reaches
depths of 8 m. On one side of the pool a
prominent flat boulder lies horizontally along
the water's surface, providing easy access to the

Figure 5. Entrance to the Cueva de Chicho.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Cueva de Chicho

figure b. Cross-section ot the (ueva de ( lniCno.

water (Figure 7). Opposite the boulder is a
water-filled passage or cave system that is said
to reach depths of 10 m and connect to another
subterranean cavern 100 m distant; at present we
cannot confirm these reports, which are
attributed to European divemasters formerly
stationed at one of the nearby hotels.

The limnological features of Chicho are
consistent with the expected properties of a
cavern pool in the area. The cave has no
measurable flow and little runoff into the pool.
As a result, there is little sedimentation in the
pool; the bottom consists of rock rubble fallen
from the ceiling overhead. The temperature of
the crystal-clear water column is a nearly
constant 25' C, low levels of salinity qualify the
pool as fresh water, and there is no anoxic, or
oxygen-free, level (William Jones, personal

communication; see Figure 8).

For comparative purposes, artifacts were
collected on several reconnaissance dives in
Chicho, producing an assemblage of 30 ceramic
pieces (29 sherds and one intact vessel). All of
the ceramics belong to the Chican Ostionoid
(Chicoid) subseries. No organic artifacts were
noted, but the lack of an anoxic level makes
water conditions in Chicho less conducive to
organic preservation than conditions at La Aleta
(see below).

All of the Chicho ceramics are from bottle
forms. Tafno ceramic water bottles in the
southeastern region of the Dominican Republic
are typically heart-shaped and thick-walled, with
bilateral zoomorphic or anthropomorphic heads
attached as adornos (Fundaci6n Centro Cultural

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Becker, Conrad and Foster

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Figure I. Flat boulder and edge ot pool, Cueva de Chicho

Altos de Chav6n 1992:26, 65; Krieger 1931:89).
Twenty-eight of the 30 ceramic specimens from
Chicho are consistent with this bottle form,
known locally as a potiza. The most diagnostic
ceramics collected are pieces of restricted necks,
several of which have
symmetrical circular
incisions, with adornos
("caritas," or "little
faces") on opposite
planes. The two non-
potiza ceramics
recovered were pieces
of bottles with different
forms, one with a
double-bulbous profile
and one with a
modeled, figurine-like

The one intact
potiza (PN-CHI-001;
Figure 9) recovered
from the cavern
illustrates the typical
Chicho vessel form.
Lodged in a hole in the
rocks and covered by Figure 8. Limnological an

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
stones from above, the
potiza was recovered at
a depth of 3 m. The
vessel measures 24 cm
high by 18 cm wide.
Its color is a reddish-
brown, with fire clouds
on the shoulders, and
evidence of a red slip
can be detected. While
this specimen is
relatively simple and
can be called heart-
shaped, more elaborate
potizas in museum
collections show that
the two lobes actually
represent female
breasts (e.g., Fundaci6n
Centro Cultural Altos
de Chav6n 1992:26),
and the shape is more
accurately termed mammiform. The vessel also
has a flat base, an oblong profile, and a phallic
neck with an opening 2 cm in diameter. A
raised decorative band with incised and punctate
design elements occurs around the neck. The

alysis of the water column, Cueva de Chicho.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Figure 9. Intact potiza bottle, Cueva de (
Height 24 cm.

design, which is typical for this area, consists of
two concentric circular incisions alternating with
two pairs of oval incisions, and an applique band
(Foster et al. 1997).

The preponderance of relatively simple
potizas argues that the ceramics from Chicho
were used for utilitarian water collecting. The
ceramics themselves provide no evidence of
ceremonial activities. The only evidence of
possibly ritual behavior at Chicho is a small
number of petroglyphs (L6pez Belando 2002).
We do not know whether the petroglyphs have
anything to do with the presence of water in the
cavern or whether they are of the same age as
the ceramics.

The Manantial de la Aleta

Situated within the current boundaries of the
East National Park, the Manantial de la Aleta
("Spring of the Fin") is 20 km from the Padre

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
Nuestro complex and 5 km inland from the
closest shoreline (Figure 1). Accessible through
several small holes in the ground surface, the
subterranean chamber drops 16 m to the surface
of the water, a roughly circular pool about 40 m
in diameter (Figure 10). The submerged part of
the cavern descends to a cap rock, the tip of a
hill formed by rubble collapsed from the upper
part of the sinkhole, at a depth of 34 m below
the surface of the water. The slopes of this hill
reach a maximum depth of 73 m below the
surface. The upper water column is clear to a
depth of 10 m, where there is a milky, sulfide-
laden layer that blurs visibility until the water
clears again at depths over 20 m (Conrad et al.
2001:2; Foster and Beeker 1997:27).

Limnological analyses of La Aleta indicate
the sinkhole has no measurable flow and little
runoff into the pool, and thus little
sedimentation. The bottom consists of rock
rubble fallen from the ceiling overhead and non-
consolidated humus material. The temperature
of the water column is a fairly constant 24.2' C,
with organic preservation possible because of
the lack of ambient light below the sulfur layer
and an anoxic environment at depths greater

Tree Root

Root Ball
Clear Water

Figure 10. Cross-section of the Manantial de la Aleta.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
then 11 m (Figure 11;
see also Jones

Along the slopes
of the underwater hill
are numerous organic
and inorganic Taino
artifacts, including
wooden artifacts,
gourds (higiieros),
basketry, lithics, and
ceramic vessels (Foster
and Beeker 1997). To
date, 245 artifacts have
been recovered,
primarily through
controlled surface
collecting along the
slopes of the site at
depths of 40 to 71 m.
Although bottom
composition, F
deposition, and artifact Figure 11. Limnological an
density make stratigraphic analysis difficult, all
artifacts were mapped in three dimensions
before being brought to the surface and
cataloged, providing an initial site plan for La
Aleta (Conrad et al. 2001:4, Figure 3; Foster and
Beeker 1997:29, Figure 3). A number of other
artifacts, although not collected, were also
documented and plotted.

The sample of artifacts reflects the diverse
types of cultural materials present in La Aleta.
Looting has occurred, and our sample may be
biased in favor of simpler, less highly decorated
objects. There are reports that looters have
collected much more elaborate objects than
those recovered during our investigations,
including two examples of the ceremonial stools
known as duhos and numerous intact, ornately
decorated ceramic vessels (Conrad et al.

The Manantial de La Aleta was initially
identified by Jos6 Guerrero (1981) during a
brief 1981 survey sponsored by the Museo del
Hombre Dominicano, which was directed by
Bernardo Vega at that time. Guerrero (1981:14-

Beeker, Conrad and Foster

alysis of the water column, Manantial de la Aleta.
15) speculated that La Aleta may have been a
site visited by the chronicler Bartolom6 de las
Casas during the conquest of the province of
Highiey in 1503. Las Casas (1967:1:24) wrote:

From there we saw the spring, and
arriving at the mouth, which was three or
four palmos wide [25 to 33 inches],
almost like a hatchway of a ship's
hold...Looking through the mouth, it
was so dark all the way down that it
seemed bottomless... so that we were
extremely uneasy. Diligently we looked
for roots called bejucos, that served as
cords, and with a clay pot we took out
water, the most sweet, fresh and cold,
and most delicious that could be found;
this spring measured eight brazas from
the opening to the surface of the water
[or 44 feet, compared to the present-day
measurement of La Aleta of
approximately 50 feet]; and wanting to
calculate the depth, we finally
determined that the water was 40 brazas
deep [220 feet], 32 brazas of which was
salt water [176 feet], and 8 brazas of

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
sweet water [44 feet], which because of
its comparative lightness, as is natural,
was on top (translation and
interpolations by Robert M. Green).12

More recently, Gabriel Atiles and Elpidio Ortega
(2001:33) have argued that this description is so
specific as to leave no doubt Las Casas was
referring to the Manantial de la Aleta.

As Las Casas's account implies, the
Manantial de la Aleta could certainly have been
used as a source of drinking water, like the
Cueva de Chicho. There is evidence, however, to
suggest that the Manantial also had other, less
utilitarian functions. Recent investigations at La
Aleta have documented a complex of four
ceremonial plazas, or bateyes, only 75 m from
the Manantial at the closest point (Atiles and
Ortega 2001:37-38, 43-45; Conrad et al. 1997;
Ortega 1997). Such plazas were used for public
ceremonies, ritual dances, and ball games
(Alegrfa 1983; Siegel 1999), and the presence of
four--the largest number known from any site
on Hispaniola (see Alegrfa 1983:33-58;
Peguero Guzmin 2001:52-60)--marks La Aleta
as a prominent place in the chiefdom of Highiey.
The available evidence suggests La Aleta's
importance was primarily religious and political,
and at present the site is considered to have been
a major Taino ceremonial center with a relatively
small number of permanent inhabitants, rather
than a large town (Ortega 1997:9; see also
Conrad et al. 2001:2).

Evidence that the Manantial itself was the
focus of ceremonies is not limited to associated
architectural remains. Both the organic artifacts
and ceramics recovered during our
investigations reflect ritual activities not seen in
the ceramic assemblage from the Cueva de

Organic Artifacts from the Manantial de la

Because of the anoxic environment at depths
below 11 m, the Manantial de la Aleta offers
exceptional conditions for preservation and

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
contains a unique assemblage of organic
materials. Only a small sample of these organic
objects has been recovered, with hundreds or
thousands of objects still remaining in situ. The
collected organic artifacts include 21 wooden
objects, two gourd vessels, and a basket
fragment. Among the additional objects not
collected are woven baskets, numerous wooden
artifacts, and worked gourds with twine

The 21 wooden objects include:

*1 small intact duho stool
*1 duho fragment
*6 bowls
*1 small vessel possibly used in the cohoba
*3 large hafts, or helves
*1 small haft
*1 crocodilian figure
*1 fragment of a canoe paddle
*1 macana war club
*1 vomiting spatula
*4 small, unidentified fragments

Seven radiocarbon samples taken from the
organic artifacts have yielded calibrated dates
ranging from AD 1035 to AD 1420 (Conrad et
al. 2001:14-15, Table 1).

With the exception of the most recent find,
the vomiting spatula, all of these artifacts have
been described elsewhere (Conrad et al. 2001),
and we will not repeat that information here.
Instead, we want to emphasize a few wooden
objects that provide evidence of ritual activities.

The duho and duho fragment are examples
of the ceremonial stools that figured
prominently in the maintenance of Taino
political and ideological systems. Owned by
high-ranking individuals, most notably chiefs
(caciques), duhos were literally seats of power,
prestige, and ritual (Ostapkowicz 1997, 1998).
The intact duho from La Aleta (PNE-01-A-
0228; Figure 12) is one of the smallest duhos
known, measuring only 19 cm long by 9 cm
high. Possibly it was intended to be the seat of

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Figure 12. Wooden artifacts from the Manantial de la Ale
19 cm); top right: possible cohoba vessel (length 13 cm)

79 cm).
one of the Taino religious figures known as
zemis, rather than a stool for a human being
(Ostapkowicz 1997:64, 1998:141, 274-275).

The crocodilian figure (PNE-01-A-225;
Figure 13) is a small, hook-shaped piece of
wood with carved snout, eyes, body, and tail.
The carver took advantage of the natural form of
the wood to create the
crocodilian imagery
(which is probably a
representation of a
cayman). This object
is most reminiscent of
a series of small
wooden artifacts
recently discovered at
the Deadman's Reef
site on Grand Bahama,
which have been
interpreted as zemis
(Berman et al. 1999,
2000). Figure 13. Crocodilian figu

II\F-DI- X (02's

ire, Manantial de la Aleta. Scale in cm.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Becker, Conrad and Foster

The macana
Figure 12) is a war
club, a type of artifact
that may have had both
\ F-0 I .-, -24 mundane and ritual
functions. Considered
by early Spanish
observers to be the
Tainos' most effective
and dangerous
weapon, the macana
was swung with both
hands and was said to
-, -- be capable of crushing
a man's skull even if he
was wearing a steel
helmet (Las Casas
S1985:I:304; Oviedo
1959:I:64; see also
Lov6n 1935:451-
453).13 Joanna
ta. Top left: duho (length (1998:226) suggests
; bottom: macana (length that in addition to their
utilitarian value as
weapons, macanas may have been prized
symbolic artifacts that expressed the power and
prestige of their owners.

Cohoba was a hallucinogenic snuff made of
the seeds of Anadananthera peregrina; it gave
its name to a ceremony through which the Taino
elite communicated with the spirit world (Pan6

I P\F-01-A Wlii_"

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
1999:21, 25-26).14 One small wooden vessel
from La Aleta (PNE-01-A-0224; Figure 12) has
been tentatively identified as a piece of
paraphernalia used in the cohoba ceremony.
This interpretation must remain speculative until
a residue analysis can be undertaken.
Nonetheless, the form of the bowl is similar to
that of a number of small vessels from the
Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Cuba
made of wood, cactus, manatee bone, and human
bone (Bercht et al. 1997:142-143, Figures 112-
113; Garcia Ar6valo and Chanlatte Baik
1978:51; Ostapkowicz 1998:109-111, 115-117,
566-568; Pendergast 1998:1; Veloz Maggiolo
1972:190, Plate 30E, 193, Plate 33A). Peter Roe
(1997:146) identifies several of these vessels as
bowls used to hold seeds or powder for the
cohoba ceremony, and Ostapkowicz (1998:111)
interprets two others as "personal ritual objects,
containers of highly important substances such
as cohoba..."

The wooden vomiting spatula (PNE-01-A-
0245; Figure 14) is another piece of
paraphernalia related to the cohoba ceremony
and to ritual feasts. Participants in such
ceremonies purified themselves by vomiting
before communing with the zemis. Vomiting
was induced with spatulas made specifically for
this purpose (Martyr d'Anghiera 1989:643).15
Examples made of wood, shell, and bone are
known. Many are elaborately carved and rank
among the masterpieces of Taino art; some even
have handles that serve as rattles (Garcia Ar6valo
1997:114, 119, Figure 91; Garcia Ar6valo and
Chanlatte Baik 1978; Lov6n 1935:620-624;
Ostapkowicz 1998:83-92). Discussing the

Figure 14. Vomiting spatula, Manantial de la Aleta. Scale in cm.

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
cohoba ceremony, Ostapkowicz (1998:92)

Vomiting spatulas enhanced the
ceremony itself (by representing a stage
through which one had to pass
successfully, and in which the
appropriate paraphernalia was required)
but also, through their size, quality of
carving and style, they visually enhanced
the prestige of the individual who used

The vomiting spatula from the Manantial de
la Aleta, which has not been described
previously, is 19.5 cm long and made of carved
wood, with slight curve and a clearly demarcated
handle and blade. Compared to other known
spatulas, it is plain and lacks elaborately carved
decorations. This relative simplicity is typical of
the wooden artifacts from La Aleta and has been
discussed in detail elsewhere (Conrad et al.

Ceramic Artifacts from the Manantial de la

To date 191 ceramic objects, 27 intact or
only minimally damaged vessels and 164
sherds, have been collected from the Manantial
de la Aleta. Nearly one-third (53) of the sherds
are large, each representing more or less half of
a vessel. Their size contrasts sharply with that
of the small sherds found in excavations of
terrestrial refuse deposits at the La Aleta site
(Atiles and Ortega 2001; Ortega 1997). If these
small sherds represent a typical pattern of
breakage during use
and then discard, the
large sherds from the
Manantial may reflect
breakage of vessels
that were intact when
they entered the water.

Nearly all of the
ceramics from the
Manantial belong to
the Chican Ostionoid

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
(Chicoid) subseries (Atiles and Ortega 2001:40)
and bear incised, punctate, modeled, and
applique decorations, including numerous
examples of the
typical carita-type
adornos.16 All of these
artifacts display a
distinctive black
staining from their
deep-water immersion.

While bottles
account for 100 per
cent of the ceramics
from the Cueva de
Chicho, the Manantial
de la Aleta assemblage
shows a wider range
of forms. Bowls, jars,
bottles, platters, and
burens (flat griddles
for cooking bread)
have all been
recovered from the
Manantial (Figures
15-17). Eighty of the
191 ceramic
specimens can be
identified as to form;
Table 1 shows the

The vessels from
the Manantial de la
Aleta have typical
domestic and culinary
forms, and special
ceremonial forms are
not distinguishable.
The majority of the
vessels, however, bear
no evidence of hard
use and little if any
sooting, possible
indications that they
were made for ritual
(Krieger 1931:59).
Furthermore, the
decorations on

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
ceramics from the Manantial de la Aleta are
more elaborate than those from Chicho. In
particular, the phallic potiza necks from the

Figure 15. Ceramic bowls with simple (incurved) profiles, Manantial de la Aleta.
Scales in cm.

I mm
Figure 16. Ceramic bowls with composite (double-bulbous) profiles, Manantial de la
Aleta. Scales in cm.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Figure 17. Ceramic jars, Manantial de la Aleta. Scales ii
Manantial (e.g., Figure 18) are considerably
more ornate than their counterparts from Chicho
and are more directly comparable to elaborate
potizas on display in the nearby Museo
Arqueol6gico Regional Altos de Chav6n (Bercht
et al. 1997:47, Figure 29; Fundaci6n Centro
Cultural Altos de Chav6n 1992:26).

Furthermore, decorations provide evidence
that the ceramics from the Manantial de la Aleta
FORM Subform Number
Simple profile
(incurved) 50
Composite profile
(double-bulbous) 1
Potiza 11
Double-bulbous body 1

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
could have been used
in ceremonies. The
vessels often have
motifs that figure
prominently in Tafno
mythology as it is
known from Pand's
(1999) account. These
designs may appear on
the body of the vessel
or as carita adornos
on the rim. The
iconography of the
ceramic assemblage
from the Manantial
has been only
minimally studied, and
we expect that detailed
analyses will provide a
much greater number
of examples than the
few given below.
nAlso, it seems likely
rn cm. that upon further
examination, many of the vessels will exhibit the
multiple imagery typical of Taino art. In any
case, the fact that the vessels' shapes and designs
reflected Tafno religious beliefs would have
made the ceramics suitable for use in religious

One bowl (PNE-01-A-0128; Figure 19) has
a modeled frog's head and forelegs on one side
and the tail on the opposite side; the vessel itself
forms the frog's body. Frogs are
Number a common motif in Taino art, and
(Form) they were associated with water,
51 rain, agricultural productivity, and
female fertility (Arrom 1997:76-
78; Stevens-Arroyo 1988:157-
167). For these reasons frogs
played an important role in Taino
creation mythology. Pand
7 (1999:7-8) related that after the
12 first Tainos left the origin-cave of
Cacibajagua, the men and women
separated from one another;
4 children remained with the men.1"

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Table 1. Ceramic Vessel Forms from the Manantial de la Aleta.

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

PN E-0 I -A -003)4
Figure 18. Phallic neck from a potiza bottle,
Manantial de la Aleta. Scale in cm.

[the women] had left the small children
next to a stream...the [male] parents
could not succor the children, who were
crying out from hunger to their mothers,
saying "mama" in order to cry, but truly
in order to ask for the teat. And thus
crying and asking for the teat, saying
"toa, toa"...like one who asks for
something with great desire and very
softly, they were transformed into little
animals like frogs...which are called
tona...because of the way they were
asking for the teat (Pane 1999:7-8;
interpolations added).18

Peter Martyr's version of Pane's account adds
that "The children were turned into frogs, and

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
from that time on the frog was held to be the
voice of springtime" (Martyr d'Anghiera
1989:192; translation in Stevens-Arroyo
1988:157).19 Sebastian Robiou Lamarche (1983,
1984) has identified the children who were
turned into frogs or frog-like creatures as the
Pleiades, a constellation that would have been
crucial to the Taino agricultural calendar (Arrom
1997:76-78; Robiou Lamarche 1983, 1996:27).

A fragment of another bowl (PNE-01-A-
0001; Figure 20) bears an adorno in the form of
a turtle's head and fins. Turtles are another
common motif in Taino art (Arrom 1975:138-
143; Bercht et al. 1997:70-72, Figures 50-53;
Jim6nez Lambertus 1978). Like frogs, the turtle
also has an important role in Taino mythology.
Pane (1999:14-16) relates the story of the
culture hero Deminin Caracaracol.20 When
Deminin asked his grandfather for bread, the
latter spat a cohoba-laden wad of spittle on
Deminin's back,

...which ached very badly. Then his
brothers looked at his back and saw it
was very swollen; and that swelling grew
so much that he was about to die. Then
they tried to cut it, and they could not;
and taking a stone axe, they opened it
up, and a live, female turtle emerged; and
so they built their house and raised the
turtle (Pane 1999:16).21

In Peter Martyr's version of Pand's account, a
woman, rather than a turtle, emerges from the
swelling; "all of the brothers used her in turn
and from her their sons and daughters were
born" (Martyr d'Anghiera 1989:194; translation
in Stevens-Arroyo 1988:125).22

Jos6 Juan Arrom (1975:138-139; see also
Pane 1999:16-17, Note 73) believes that Peter
Martyr erred in making the turtle a woman.
Antonio Stevens-Arroyo (1988:125-126) argues
that Peter Martyr's words should be retained at
the end of the myth because the woman is a
logical transformation of the turtle, which he
calls a symbol of female immortality. This
difference of opinion notwithstanding, both
authors agree that the myth represents the

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Zonopi Apliu Bowla gg

Figure 19. Zoomorphic bowl with frog imagery, Manantial de la Aleta. Scale in cm.

Figure 20. Zoomorphic bowl with turtle imagery, Manantial de la Aleta.

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
beginnings of culture--
houses, farming,
cooking, shamanism,
and healing (Arrom
1997:68; Stevens-
Arroyo 1988:124-
131). Despite his
skepticism about Peter
Martyr's exact words,
Arrom (1997:68)
concludes that the
turtle "takes on a
human role and
becomes the Taino

Another bowl
bears two opposed
handles modeled in the
form of bats, and there
is a vessel neck (PNE-
01-A-0217; Figure 21)
decorated with
depictions of the eyes
and tail of an owl. We
have already noted that
among the Tainos bats
were associated with
death and the spirits of
the ancestors. The
same is true of owls
(Garcia Ar6valo 1997).

One carita
adorno (PNE-01-A-
0070; Figure 22)
appears to be the
handle of a shallow
platter; the handle is in
the form of the head
and upper torso of an
elaborately garbed
individual wearing a
headdress and other
adornments. In
addition to depicting
what appears to be a
costume, the handle

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

i 'Nf- 0 1 |12

serves as a rattle: it is
hollow, with a slit at the
end and a clay ball
inside. Perhaps this
rattle handle is
analogous to those on
some vomiting
spatulas, where the
rattle was used to
summon the zemis to
rituals (Garcia Ar6valo
and Chanlatte Baik
........ 1978; Stevens-Arroyo

Beyond these
mythological themes, it
is possible that some
S. .. i vessels from La Aleta
~may have had
Figure 21. Zoomorphic vessel neck with owl imagery, Manantial de la Aleta. calendrical
Scale in cm. significance. Arrom
(1997:76-78) argues
that "the Taino had
developed a star
calendar sophisticated
enough to embark on
long sea voyages and
to guide the sowing
and harvesting of
crops" (see also
Robiou Lamarche
1983). Calendrical
information may be
recorded on some of
the specimens from the
Manantial. For
example, one bowl
........ (PNE-0 1 -A-0242;
.Figure 23) has 13
circles incised on its
neck. Two of these
circles, which are
adjacent to one another,
have a punctate dot in
their centers. The
design may represent a
season, date, or event in
Figure 22. Vessel rim with rattle adorno in the form of an elaborately dressed figure, a lunar calendar of 13
Manantial de la Aleta. Scale in cm. months of 28 days

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use ofFlooded Caverns

Becker, Conrad and Foster

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Figure 23. Bowl decorated with 13 incised circles; the des
significance. Maximum diameter 17 cm.

apiece (see L6pez Belandol997). This
interpretation is preliminary and tentative at

Even the contents
of some vessels may
provide evidence of the
special nature of the
ceramic assemblage.
One bowl (PNE-01-A-
0167; Figure 24)
contained numerous
seeds identified as
gudcima (Guazuma
ulmifolia Lam.). This
tree is found
throughout Hispaniola
and is common in
scrubland and forest
clearings. It bears fruit
year-round and is a
source of both food
and medicine. The Figure 24. Bowl and
young fruit contains Scales in cm.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
edible pulp, which can
be mixed with water to
make a refreshing
drink. The sap is used
as a cure for dysentery
and for skin irritations
caused by the
poisonous guao tree
(Comocladia dentata).
The bark is used to
combat pulmonary
infections (Liogier
1995:147-148; Vega
-. - 1996:36-37, 212). Lee
Newsom (1993:250,
255, 266-267, 271, 319,
367) reports the
possible presence of
gudcima wood in
period contexts at En
Bas Saline, Haiti, the
site of a large Taino
ign may have calendrical settlement and
Columbus's La Navidad.
To the best of our knowledge, however, the
gudcima seeds from La Aleta are the only ones

guacima (Guazuma i seeds, Manantial de la Aleta.


Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
from an archaeological context in the West

There is some artifactual evidence, still
tentative, that La Aleta's importance may have
extended beyond the vicinity of the East
National Park, or at least that some of the
ceramics found in the Manantial may not have
been manufactured locally.24 One jar (PNE-01-
A-0188; Figure 25) has a distinctive, four-lobed
body that is presently unmatched in the La Aleta
assemblage. It is, however, very similar in both
form and construction to a jar found in the
Cueva de Roma on the north shore of
Hispaniola in 1926 and described by Herbert
Krieger (1931:93-94, Plate 43) five years later.
At the time of its discovery the jar from the
Cueva de Roma was "unusual in the
extreme...no other vessel of this type being
known in any collection of aboriginal pottery
from Santo Domingo" (Krieger 1931:160).


There are clear and striking differences
between the artifact assemblage from the Cueva
de Chicho and the assemblage from the
Manantial de la Aleta. For example, the


Figure 25. Four-lobed jar from the Manantial de la Aleta
right) compared with a similar vessel reported by Herbert]
(bottom). Scales in cm.

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
ceramics from the two sites can be contrasted in
multiple ways. The Chicho assemblage contains
only bottles, while a wider range of forms is
present at La Aleta (where bottles, in fact,
account for only 15 per cent of the vessels
whose form can be identified; see Table 1). The
Chicho ceramics bear relatively simple
decorations, while the La Aleta specimens are
more elaborate and often bear motifs that are
important in Taino mythology as we know it
from Pand's (1999) account. In terms of vessel
forms, there is no evidence of non-local
ceramics at Chicho and some possible evidence
of the long-distance movement of ceramics at La
Aleta. Nearly all of the Chicho ceramics are
sherds from broken vessels, suggesting routine
wear and tear and eventual discard as refuse
when the bottles fractured during use. In
contrast, intact vessels are much more prominent
in the La Aleta assemblage, and there is also
evidence to suggest that a significant portion of
breakage was post-depositional. At La Aleta
many vessels seem to have been deposited
carefully in the water, rather than simply
discarded as trash.

All of these contrasts suggest that the two
sites served different functions. The only
activity obviously reflected in the
Chicho ceramic assemblage is water
collecting for purposes like
drinking, cooking, washing, and
bathing. The La Aleta assemblage,
-- however, seems to reflect a greater
range of activities and a more
complex function, one with a more
symbolic and ritual content than can
be discerned at Chicho.

If there ever were any organic
artifacts in the Cueva de Chicho,
they have not been preserved and
cannot be compared to their
counterparts from La Aleta. It is
possible to say, however, that the
organic artifacts from La Aleta are
consistent with the ceramics from
(top left and that site. Like the pottery, a number
Krieger of the wooden artifacts have
symbolic and ritual associations.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
Some of the pieces, like the duho, are prestige-
reinforcing objects that were probably closely
identified with individual owners (Conrad et al.
2001:16-17; Ostapkowicz 1997:56, 1998:92,
111, 119, 226); others, like the vomiting spatula,
are pieces of ritual paraphernalia.

There is no sharp distinction between these
two categories. For example, status and status
relations were crucial to the cohoba ceremony.
Only nobles were allowed to take part; the
cacique led the ceremony; and the participants
were seated on duhos (Las Casas 1967:11:175-
176; Martyr d'Anghiera 1989:197; Pane
1999:26).25 Accordingly, artifacts like the duhos
and vomiting spatula from La Aleta were both
status symbols and items of ritual paraphernalia.

We have suggested elsewhere that the rituals
carried out at the Manantial de la Aleta were
connected with ancestor worship (Conrad et al.
2001:3). Our working hypothesis is that the
Taino population of the East National Park
region saw the Manantial as a portal to Coaybay,
the underworld dwelling-place of the dead.
Central to this argument is the fact that from the
surface of the water in the Manantial, one looks
vertically upward through a small opening in the
earth's surface to the sky. We have argued that
to the Tainos of the region, this view upward was
essentially a view along the vertical axis mundi
that united the surface of the earth with the
heavens and the underworld (Figure 26;
compare Siegel 1997:108, Figure 1). If this
interpretation is correct, the artifacts in the
Manantial were probably placed there as
offerings to the spirits of the ancestors in the

There is another possible interpretation of
the Manantial de la Aleta, not necessarily
inconsistent or mutually exclusive with the
previous one. The Tainos viewed Hispaniola as
a monstrous female beast with its head to the
east, in the chiefdom of Higuiey, and Peter
Harris (1994:11) proposes that two sinkhole
springs in Higuiey were believed to be the eyes
of the beast. It is possible that the Manantial de
la Aleta was one of those sinkholes. If the
Manantial was indeed seen as one of the beast's

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
eyes, it was an eye that could look
simultaneously outward toward the heavens and
inward toward the realm of the ancestral spirits.

Likewise, there is another possible
interpretation of the differences between the
Manantial de la Aleta and the Cueva de Chicho,
suggested to us by Mary Jane Berman (personal
communication, 2002). The two sites may have
been used by people of different statuses. In
this argument, the Manantial de la Aleta would
have been used by people of elite status, perhaps
drawn from a region considerably larger than
the modern East National Park. In contrast,
Chicho may have been used by a non-elite
group, presumably drawn only from the local
area. Again, this suggestion is not necessarily
incompatible with other hypotheses about the
special nature of La Aleta.

All of these possibilities remain to be
evaluated in more detail through future research.
In any case, the artifactual evidence argues that
the Manantial de la Aleta was the setting for

Figure 26. The Manantial de la Aleta as the axis
mundi (modified from Siegel 1997:108, Figure 1).

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

The Heavens

Earth's Surface

Sulfur Layer

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns
rituals that were important throughout the East
National Park region, and perhaps beyond. In
contrast, the Cueva de Chicho was a largely
mundane place, unimportant outside its
immediate vicinity. We are left with the
question of why. What characteristics made the
Manantial de la Aleta such a special place?

We can point to three attributes that
distinguish the Manantial from Chicho--and, in
fact, from the other known caves in the East
National Park region. The first is the fact that
access from the surface of the ground to the
Manantial follows a vertical path, not a
horizontal or diagonal one. We believe the
verticality of the Manantial was what allowed it
to be identified with the axis mundi. The
diagonal descent into Chicho did not favor such
an association.

The second distinguishing attribute is the
great depth of the Manantial. The bottom is far
out of sight, and the water appears to extend
below the earth's surface to mysterious depths.
A strong argument that the Manantial de la Aleta
is indeed the site described by Las Casas
(1967:1:24) is his statement that the spring
"seemed bottomless... so that we were extremely
uneasy.?"26 In contrast, the bottom of the pool in
Chicho is easily visible from the surface, and the
spring gives no impression of unfathomable

The third special feature of the Manantial is
the milky sulfur layer. Sinking objects
disappear from view as they enter the sulfur
layer, and the moment of their disappearance
may have been seen as the precise moment of
their transition into the underworld. Chicho,
however, lacks any such obscuring layer. The
pool is crystal-clear throughout its 8 m depth,
and a sinking object of any size never
disappears from view.


Both the Cueva de Chicho and the Manantial
de la Aleta offer evidence of the Taino use of
water-filled caverns in the East National Park
region. The features described above, however,

Beeker, Conrad and Foster
give the Manantial an aura of mystery that
Chicho lacks. Chicho is an example of a
common type of cave, and it seems that the local
Taino population treated it as a comparatively
mundane place. In contrast, the Manantial de la
Aleta was an unusual type of cave. Its
unusualness was readily interpreted as
sacredness, because its physical properties
matched the Tainos' view of their universe. To
the Tainos of the East National Park region, the
Manantial offered a portal to the different levels
of the universe and to different planes of reality.
Through continued research we hope to reopen
this portal and obtain new insights into the
ceremonies and religious beliefs of "the people
who greeted Columbus" (Rouse 1992).

Acknowledgments. This paper is the result of ongoing
collaboration with our colleagues in the Dominican
Republic. We would like to acknowledge their guidance
in helping us to try to understand Taino culture,
prehistory, and archaeology. We are indebted to Marcio
Veloz Maggiolo, Elpidio Ortega, Abelardo Jim6nez
Lambertus, Gabriel Atiles, Angel Caba Fuentes, and the
late Dato Pagan Perdomo for all their help and advice
over the past few years. Key governmental support has
been provided by Pedro Morales Troncoso, Carlos
Andujar Persinal, Luis Brea Franco, Pedro J. Borrell,
Francisco Escoto, Francis Soto, and Omar Ramirez, as
well as the Fuerza A6rea Dominicana. The
administrative staff and rangers of the Parque Nacional
del Este have been extremely helpful and supportive.

Our work has benefited greatly from an agreement of
friendship and cooperation between Indiana University
and the Universidad Cat6lica Santo Domingo. We are
grateful to all of our colleagues at the Cat6lica,
especially the university's rector, Father Ram6n Alonso
Beato, and its vice rector, Soledad Aristegui de Vassallo.

The staff at Club Viva Dominicus has been
exceedingly generous in their support of our research.
They have welcomed us as "family," provided room and
board, and given us a place to record and stabilize the
artifacts. We want to recognize Rafael Blanco, Giacomo
Di Lauro, Elena Guerrini, Pierluigi Ferro, Mauro
Scattolin, and our archaeological colleague Adolfo L6pez
Belando, among many others.
Indiana University provided funding for the work
described in this paper in the form of a Strategic

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Directions Initiative Grant, with supplemental support
from the university's Office of Research and the
University Graduate School and the School of Health,
Physical Education, and Recreation. Additional funding
was provided by 19th Star Productions, Mr. Jerry
Williams, The Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and
the Eureka Project, directed by Dr. Scott Carroll. We are
grateful to all of these institutions, organizations, and
individuals for their support.

Diving operations at the Manantial de la Aleta and
the Cueva de Chicho drew on the expertise of many
people. We want to acknowledge Rob Bleser and Paul
Caputo of Quiescence Diving in Key Largo, Florida.
Others offering their services were Stephen James, the
late Dick Swete, Rick McClung, Tom Hodson, Leonard
Hunter, Luisa De Pefia Dfaz, Mark Brauner, Amanda
Evans, Deke Hager, Kristen Meier, Randalyn Raj,
Robert Richardson, John Skolak, Michael Terrell, Kye
Tiernan, Cara Trautman, Lynn Uhls, and Jim Ziegler,
along with Joe Clark of Ocean Divers, Inc., and Bill
Goodwin and John Halas of the Florida Keys National
Marine Sanctuary. Donations of equipment came from
Warn Industries, Mares, Outboard Marine Corporation,
Parr Emergency Products, Luxfer Gas Cylinders, Pro
Air, Mako Breathing Air Systems, and Panamerican
Consultants, Inc.

We want to thank Robert Green for translating the
quotation from Las Casas, Marjorie Van Gorder Smith
for assistance in locating references, Ellen Sieber for
preparing Figures 1 and 26, Scott Brish for preparing
Figures 6 and 10, and Christopher Parks for his help
with the other illustrations. Finally, we are grateful to
Mary Jane Berman, Betsy Carlson, and Peter Siegel for
their helpful comments on an earlier version of this

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1 Las Casas, Apologetica Historia Sumaria, Book I,
Chapter 3. For the convenience of readers with
different editions of the chronicles, we are including
book and chapter references as notes.
2 See Harris (1994), Keegan et al. (1998), Sauer (1966),
TavArez (1996), Vega (1980), and Wilson (1990) for
discussions of the different ways the aboriginal
chiefdoms of Hispaniola have been named and
3 For refuge in caves, see Las Casas, Historia de las
Indias, Book II, Chapter 18 and Lov6n (1935:121).
For negative opinions of cave-dwellers, see Las Casas
(cited in Lov6n 1935:3; Sauer 1966:184); Oviedo,
Book III, Chapter 12; Peter Martyr, Decade 3, Book
VIII. The stigma attached to cave-dwelling may have
been European, but Keegan (1992:4-8) implies that it
may also have been a Taino value judgment expressed
in \ Ih il \.
4 Pan6, Chapter 1. Pan6 apparently collected much of
his information in the territory of the cacique
Guarionex (Pan6 1999:33-34; Chapter 25; see also
Arrom's introduction, Pan6 1999:xix-xxiv). While
Pan6's account is derived from a particular time, place,
and sociopolitical setting, scholars have tended to treat
it as being more generally applicable. This approach
may be justified in a general sense--for example, all
Classic Tainos may have believed that the first humans
were created in two caves.
There is no particular reason to think that all Classic
Taino groups believed humans were created in the same
two caves, however. Given the propensity of
traditional societies--including those of lowland South
America and the West Indies (Siegel 1996, 1997,
1999)--to see themselves as occupying the center of the
universe, it is possible that each cacicazgo believed the

Beeker, Conrad and Foster

creation caves lay within its own territory.
For the etymology of Cauta, Cacibajagua, and
Amayadna and the identification of Amayadna as the
source of the non-Taino peoples, see Arrom's analysis
of Pan6's account (Arrom 1997:72; Pan6 1999:5, Notes
5 Pan6, Chapter 11. For an argument that Pane's
account is actually an amalgam of two myths that
mixes sacred and earthly geography, see Arrom
(1975:55-57). Places like Cauta, Cacibajagua,
Amayadna, and Iguanaboina were elements of sacred
geography, and the Tainos would not necessarily have
identified them with actual features of the landscape.
Pan6's account of Iguanaboina suggests that the Tainos
did consider such identifications important, however.
6 Pan6, Chapters 13-15.
7 Pan6, Chapter 12.
8 Pan6, Chapter 13. The most common bat species on
Hispaniola is the fruit-eating bat Artibeus jamaicensis,
which shows "a particular predilection for guavas"
(Garcia Ar6valo 1997:115).
9 Peter Martyr, Decade 7, Book VIII.
10 Las Casas, Apologetica Historia Sumaria, Book I,
Chapter 3; Peter Martyr, Decade 3, Book VIII;
The designation of southeastern Hispaniola as Higtiey
follows Las Casas (see Note 1). There is another early
set of names for the Taino provinces of Hispaniola,
collected by Andr6s Morales at the behest of NicolAs de
Ovando, governor of the island from 1502 to 1509.
Morales divided Hispaniola into five province groups.
Peter Martyr recorded Morales's divisions, saying they
had been "used by the Indians since time immemorial."
In this scheme the southeastern part of the island is a
province group called Caicimd or Caizimd. Cimu
means "front" or "beginning" and Caicimd (Cay-cimd)
"the beginning of the island" (Martyr d'Anghiera
1989:354-355; Decade 3, Book VII; see also Arrom
Over 85 years ago Theodoor De Booy (1915:82-84)
suggested that sherds found in several caves on Saona
Island--today part of the East National Park--might have
been "parts of vessels left in the caves to collect water
from the drip of stalactites," although he admitted the
drip was "negligible in quantity." De Booy (1915:87-
88) did find the remains of Taino water-collecting
vessels in two caves with underground pools near El
Salado, roughly 40 km north of the East National Park.
12 Las Casas, Apologetica Historia Sumaria, Book I,
Chapter 3.
13 Las Casas, Historia de las Indias, Book I, Chapter 67;

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Taino Use of Flooded Caverns

Oviedo, Book III, Chapter 5.
14 Pane, Chapters 15, 19.
15 Peter Martyr, Decade 7, Book X.
16 Atiles and Ortega (2001:40) indicate that Luis
Chanlatte Baik identified Huecoid (or Huecan Saladoid)
characteristics in two vessels from the Manantial de la
Aleta; the vessels in question are not illustrated in their
report. The La Hueca style is controversial (Allaire
1999:705-706; Rouse 1992:85-89, 101-102, 106), but
these ceramics could be evidence of an early occupation
of La Aleta sometime between 300 BC and AD 400.
17 Pane, Chapters 3-4.
18 Pane, Chapter 4.
19 Peter Martyr, Decade 1, Book IX.

Beeker, Conrad and Foster

20 Pane, Chapters 10-11.
21 Pane, Chapter 11.
22 Peter Martyr, Decade 1, Book IX.
23 How the seeds came to be in this particular pot in the
first place, and then remained there, is an interesting
taphonomic question.
24 In fact, there are no clay deposits in the vicinity of La
Aleta (Robert M. Green, personal communication); the
nearest known sources are 17-25 km from the site.
25 Las Casas, Apologetica Historia Sumaria, Book III,
Chapter 166; Pane, Chapter 19; Peter Martyr, Decade
1, Book IX.
26 Las Casas, Apologetica Historia Sumaria, Book I,
Chapter 3.

Journal of Caribbean Archaeology 3, 2002

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