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L I F E A N D H I STO RY

THE BIRD MAN


WHAT BIRD WAS ITS
INSPIRATION?
T E NE LEV

THE BIRD MAN


IN APRIL 1799, THREE WOODEN FIGURES WERE PUT ON

Archaeologica

April 11, 1799

Archaeologica,
as “deities” and states that they were the artefacts were discovered in

Journal of the Institute of Jamaica in 1897,2


the cave in order to protect them from

THE ROLE OF THE CEMÍ IN TAÍNO


3
SOCIETY
In Caciques and Cemí Idols

4
In a Jamaica Journal
noted in Archaeologica to have the face 9
He proposes
of a bird has come to be referred to as comprehensive description of the Bird c. AD

of bird is represented; what was the

It is not

He proposed that it may be a type of

tears that stream from his eyes [which] “There are no concrete data which

8
Cohoba

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or a
cohoba 7

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duho

Cemís were made from trees which


cohoba ceremony on

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and that

‘they venerate one [cemí] more than


cohoba,
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spirit from the tree form into its own


17

Colour
reinforce its association with the spirit

12

QUALITIES OF CEMÍ ICONS


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Bird Man is a deity in the Jamaican


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Wood
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Equisetum

duhos, and wisdom”

Tools and Finish

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the hardness of the wood as the Taínos

native to the Caribbean and northern


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sancto”14

PREVIOUS INTERPRETATIONS

OP P OSITE P AGE Bird Man, front view which bird was depicted in the Bird
THIS P AGE Cohoba stand

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Ears
THE WOODPECKER MYTH
is the Bird
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the side of the head, yet the Bird Man
Man that is described as a “Jamaican

Teeth

Trochilus often interpreted by an observer in the


These forms were neither men nor
polytmus
women, nor did they have the sex

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How they found a solu-
Melanerpes tion so that they would be women

inriri cahubabayael

This is evidenced by Christopher


the aforementioned bird and tied it

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Navel
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operito

FEATURES OF THE BIRD MAN


FIGURE 32

An Account Shininess
of the Antiquities of the Indians,
Decoration

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Arm and leg bands 33


COMPOSITE PHOTO BY BRIAN K. SCHMIDT, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

BIRDS IN TAÍNO CULTURE


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Eyes

Beak

A. Red-billed streamertail skull


B. Jamaican woodpecker skull
C. Jamaican crow skull

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duhos and cohoba

HTTP://IBC.LYNXEDS.COM/
PHOTO/JAMAICAN-CROW-
CORVUS-JAMAICENSIS
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Crows are not mentioned in

representation of them on artefacts,

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was

The Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis)

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more widespread than it is today when

Corvus
leucognaphalus
37

39
where there

Corvus jamaicensis
not
bajani C.
palmarum
C. nasicus, forth in sentences”,46 and is described
38
47
C. leucognaphalus,

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It is an

invertebrates,42

voice is distinctive, varied and often 48

Buteo jamaicensis 49

43
TOP The Jamaican Crow (Corvus jamaicensis)
LE FT Bird Man's teeth

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the endemic Jamaican boa, Epicrates
,

“patch” of feathers on the forehead,


these feathers

for veneration” in Jamaican Taíno

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

some societies the bird is seen as a


Boinayel, the Rain Giver

with “at

of the West Indies, Mona who prompted


the interpretation that this deity had for

these observations seem to indicate


that the Bird Man may have been an

many other cemí icons, were

Man stands with hands and arms


cohoba

The

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NOTES
of South American Indians,
Archaeologica

in Jamaica”, Journal of the Institute of Jamaica Crow” is Cathartes aura

Jones, Pre-Columbian Jamaica

Corvus jamaicensis
Caribbean Quarterly Journal of Caribbean Ornithology
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
of Great Britain and Ireland
Corvus
Jamaica jamaicensis”, Auk
Journal Taíno
The Tribal Image Wooden The Civil and Natural
Figure Sculpture of the World History of Jamaica

Yamaye’s Gwabance: The Spirit of the


of the Taino”, in Taíno: Pre-Columbian Hurricane Time”, International Forestry Review
Art and Culture from the Caribbean
The Birds of Jamaica

Island Biology Illustrated by the


Land Birds of Jamaica
Caciques and Cemí Idols,
Heilbrunn Timeline of Art Ancient American Art Birds of Jamaica
History Origins of the Tainan Culture,
West Indies
Auk

A Short Guide to the


American Antiquities in the British Museum Caciques and Cemí Idols Caciques and Cemí Idols

Pre-Columbian Jamaica Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies

Caciques and Cemí Idols: The Current


Web Spun by Taíno Rulers between Hispaniola Anthropology Caciques and Cemí Idols
and Puerto Rico Select Letters of Account of the Antiquities
Christopher Columbus, with Other Original Caciques and Cemí Idols
Documents Relating to the Four Voyages to the
New World,
Ancient American Art in
Detail Account of the Antiquities
Select Letters
The Peoples of the
Caribbean: An Encyclopedia of Archaeology
and Traditional Culture
Journal of Latin American
Lore

Historia General y Natural de Las Indias/ Biogeography of the West Indies: Patterns and
General and Natural History of the Indies Perspectives

Antiquity

An Account of the Proceedings of the United States


Antiquities of the Indians National Museum

Talking Taino

Handbook Check-list of North American Birds,

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