JAMAICA - History
The Pre-Columbian era represents the period during which the island was inhabited by the Tainos. Traditionally, Tainos were called Arawaks. Analysis of prehistoric languages and cultures has revealed that the Tainos and the Arawaks were two different groups and that it was the former group that resided in Jamaica.
From the view given by the Spaniards it would appear that the Tainos lived a primitive life but recent studies have shown that their lifestyle was organised politically, economically and socially.
Politically, the Tainos had an elaborate and well defined form of Government with a Chief or Cacique as the head who was supported by a group of nobles. In addition, islands were divided into districts and in some instances regional chiefdoms.
The economy was based on a form of conuco agriculture. Fields were arranged in mounds called conucos three feet high, and at times nine feet in circumference in order to improve drainage, slow the process of erosion, and allow the storage of mature tubers in the ground. The Tainos relied heavily on fishing as evidenced by shells and bones excavated from kitchen middens found around the Island. They hunted conies, birds, and iguanas with arrows tipped with sharpened stones and shells.
Shelter came in the form of the caneye and the bohio. The former was rectangular and was lived in by the ordinary Tainos while the latter, circular in shape, was occupied by the Cacique. These houses were furnished with a hammock and in some instances a stool. Pottery was used for cooking and storing water and grain. In addition, each household had its own carved, wooden or moulded clay zemis which represented one or more of their many gods.