Taíno Indians were the original inhabitants of much of the Caribbean Islands. A proud people with a rich and vibrant culture, the Taíno impressed both Spanish conquistadors and modern anthropologists.
The Taíno were literally decimated shortly after the arrival of Columbus, with 90 percent of its population perishing within the first 30 years after contact. A subgroup of the Arawakan Peoples, the Taíno called the islands of Cuba, Jamaica, Hispaniola and Puerto Rico home for millennia. They spoke a universal language with no writing and believed in a hierarchy of deities, to whom they would provide offerings and sometimes elaborate sacrifices. Myths and traditions were expressed through dances and a ceremonial ball game called batey that was played in large arenas. Games would often be used to solve disputes, with chiefs making wagers on the outcome.
The Taíno were highly skilled artisans and masters of agriculture, hunting and fishing. Being an oceanfront people, the Taíno thrived on the sea, constructing large dugout canoes that would hold upwards of 20 people. Inventions and innovations that modern society has the Taíno to thank for include hammocks, a special straw hut called a bohío, the musical instrument maracas and a method of making cassava bread. The word hurricane also comes from Taíno vocabulary.
The Taíno were also very much into body modification and decoration, with men usually tattooed and women usually pierced.