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Amerindian culture before 1492 001

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A brief look at the similarities among the three main Amerindian groups that CXC requires its History candidates to familiarize themselves with.

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Amerindian culture before 1492 001

  1. 1. Vere Technical High School Prepared by Mr. D. Gooden Amerindian Culture Before 1492 (the arrival of the Europeans) Society The Tainos The Kalinagos The Maya Villages were near the coasts or along rivers. Houses were built of thatch. The leader of the Tainos were called caciques and their houses were called Bohio (usually the largest and rectangular in shape)while the caneyes were the regular family homes (usually small and round). Village settlements were located near streams, in strategic positions. They were made from thatch. The men lived together in the carbet. Their wives and concubines were often Taino women whom they captured when they raided Taino villages. The Mayan established city-states, some of which had large populations. They lived in round huts. They had spectacular buildings and grounds. Mayan society was divided into ruling class, working class and merchant class. They had slaves who were captured from raids of other tribes who formed the lowest class, the slaves. The merchant class played an important role in trade, which was responsible for the development of Mayan society. Politics The Cacique was the civil leader.His position was hereditary. He was the law maker as well as religious leader. He made the important decisions on all aspects of life. There were also sub-caciques who assisted him in various There were no leaders such as caciques. Village headmen or tiubutuli hauthe made important decisions in times of peace for his particular family His position was hereditary. The war leader was called the ubutu. The The halach uinic was the head of each city- state. His position was hereditary, that is, pass on from father to son. Villages were govern by batabs. Nacoms were war chiefs elected for about three years.
  2. 2. Politics duties. There were several famous caciques in the West Indies. Guancaganari in Hispaniola and Hatuey I Cuba were among the strong, fearless leaders. Cacique ubutu was one of the most skilled and fierce warriors who had to lead raids against the enemy and protect his people from attacks. This position was not hereditary but rather based on the prowess of the individual in warfare. He was elected to lead his people during wartime. Boys started their warfare training at age four and were really warriors for life. Ubutu Halach Uinic Religion They were polytheistic, that is, they worshipped many gods and ancestral spirits. They worshipped the zemi which was an idol that represented their gods. There were zemis for almost every aspect of life. The cacique was the religious head of the community and it was thought that he communicated directly with the zemis. They believed in coyaba – a heaven where his souls went after death. Tobacco was used in their ceremonies. Zemis They believed in the maboya – these were evil spirits which the Kalinagos believed controlled everything. Their priests were called boyez and these were specially trained to ward off evil by praying to a more powerful maboya. Tobacco played an important role in their ceremonies. They were cannibals (persons who eat human flesh) not because they have to, but because they chose to do so. They often ate the flesh of those Tainos warriors whom they considered brave. They would also eat the flesh of those European invaders after a conflict (warfare). The ah kin – priests who were key figures in Maya society. They calculated days for harvesting, planting, festivals and sacrifices. Maya society was very influenced by religious beliefs. They had areas of huge stone pyramids with temples on top. These buildings were decorated with beautiful writings. Kinich Ahau – sun god Yum Kax – corn god
  3. 3. Religion Maboya Ah Kin – Mayan priest Pok a Tok – Mayan ball game Trade Agriculture and Food They practiced subsistence farming – planting just enough food for themselves. They planted maize, cassava, cotton and tobacco among other crops. They ate fruits such as pineapples and naseberries. For meat they ate fish, iguana and turtle meat which were popular. Iguana Pineapple Cassava Maize (corn) They practiced subsistence farming, but spent less time planting. They basically ate the same as the Tainos with the exception of: a) Turtle meat – which they believe would make the eater slow and stupid b) Pig meat – which they believe would cause you to develop small beady eyes c) Crab meat before a sea voyage – which they believe would bring about disasters while at sea. They practiced surplus farming. That means that they had more than enough food to store for the future or to trade with other tribes. The ppolms and chontals were merchants and were responsible for trade. Bartering was popular and a variety of goods passed hands ranging from food to minerals. Tha Mayans planted their food crops on agricultural lands called milpas. Technology They made canoes for fishing and as transport. They used stone tools, and made pottery and finely woven cloths and baskets. They had canoes for fishing, general transport and for making raids (war). They used stone tools but theirs were more effectively used in warfare than those of the Tainos. The Taino women brought their skills in weaving and pottery-making. They had impressive architectural style in the pyramids and temples. They also had a form of writing called hieroglyphics (a series of pictures to tell a story). Though very little of their books remain, much can be seen on artefacts that survive the coming of the Europeans. They knew about mathematics and astronomy and used both to develop sophisticated calendars.

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