Taino Symbol Meanings

How old are these symbols?

Ancient petroglyphs or symbols carved into rock by prehistoric peoples reveal how they envisioned the world around them. But estimating an exact age of most petroglyphs is difficult to determine. It's interesting to note that carbon-dating techniques aren't effective on rock. The majority can be considered being made around 5000 BC to 1700 AD. Regardless, questions remain: Who carved these symbols? Was it the Tainos or perhaps a pre-Taino society that carved these symbols?

What do they mean?

Whenever anyone views petroglyphs the unavoidable question comes up: What is the meaning of these symbols?

It is imperative to note that Petroglyphs and pictographs are not like hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphics are images used as a written language. The Tainos however did not have a written language.

We, as human-beings, recognize the familiar shapes in these ancient symbols and connect with them through our own human intuition rather than intellect. Anthropologists, archaeologists, and art historians tell us that they know little about these prehistoric images and therefore difficult to address.

Some theories suggest that petroglyphs were created by shamans. Images were made from visions in an altered state of consciousness induced by hallucinogens. Others say that they were signs for local tribes warning them of events such as flash floods or claiming territories.

Below are common symbols that have been interpreted by modern society:

Modern Interpretations

There are people today who desperately search, in books or the internet, for the true meaning of these rock-carvings not really knowing the history (or in this case, lack-of historical data) of the Tainos / Pre-Tainos. It is still unclear today of what these petroglyphs or symbols really mean. Over time, scholars have come-up with educated guesses of what they might represent and to this day they can only speculate.

Some of the “face” symbols have been said to represent shamans, gods, animals (bats & owls) and people of the tribes. Tainos may have also carved zemi spirits or gods with human-like faces.

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