Chicho Spring: Diving into Taino History

Chicho Spring: Diving into Taino History

IU students inside Chicho

The purpose of this page is to provide educational support for the Chicho Spring: Diving into Taino History. This site has links that are relevant for learning about the creation of underwater museums and parks. For questions relating to this site please contact Lisa Hopwood.

History of Chicho Spring


Chicho spring is one of four individual caverns that makes up the Padre Nuestro complex. This is a series of water-containing sinkholes in limestone of the Pleistocene origin. The entrance of Chicho spring is a steep slop that descends 25m to a freshwater pool in an underground chamber. The chamber is 30m wide and 20m high and has some sunlight in the mouth of the cave during the day. The underwater pool itself is 8m wide by 20m long and has depths of 8m. The spring has no measurable flow and little runoff resulting in little sedimentation. It has crystal clear water that stays a constant 25。 C year round. Currently the complex is used by a local resort for its water source, but this site was also used long ago by the local Ta地o people for gathering fresh water.



Caves are an important part of Ta地o mythology and the Ta地o believed the first peoples of Hispaniola came from two caves in a mountain named Cauta. The ancestral Ta地os emerged from one cave, Cacibajagua, while the ancestors of the non-Ta地o peoples came out of another, Amaya從a. The Ta地o also believed the Sun and the Moon emerged from a cave called Iguanaboina. Caves were intimately associated with the spirits of Ta地o ancestors, whose worship was a central element of Ta地o religion. They believed their universe consisted of three layers united by a vertical axis. The earthユs surfaces lay in the middle, with the celestial vault above. The bottom layer was a watery underworld known as Coaybay or dwelling place of the dead. Access between the earthユs surface and the underworld was by way of sacred caves. These were portals to Coaybay and the ancestors. The Ta地o also believed that the island of Hispaniola was a monstrous living beast. The head of the monster was at the eastern end of the island, in the chiefdom of Hig歹y. Two caves in Hig歹y were seen as the beastユs eyes. Another connection between caves and the ancestors is that caves are homes to colonies of bats. The Ta地o believed that the spirits transformed themselves into bats. They would hide during the day and come out at night to eat the fruits of the Guava tree. These spirits of the dead were called op誕s and the bat is one of the most frequently depicted animals in Ta地o art.


At the present most evidence of religious ceremonialism comes from dry caves. Rock art is one form of this evidence and it consists of both petrogylphs and pictographs. Petroglyphs typically occur in areas where sunlight is available, usually near cave entrances. Pictographs are usually found deeper within caves and are often more elaborate than petrogylphs. Chicho springs contains petroglyphs. The group of petrogylphs nearest to the entrance displays typical caritas or little faces. The faces are prominent because they are carved in stalactics and use the natural formations to enhance the sculptures. The second group of petroglyphs are on a flat rock a little farther from the entrance. This group contains numerous designs and many seem to be astronomical or numerical. One petroglyph has 13 lines and may depict the lunar months. Some of the designs are identical to pictographs found in the Jos Maria cave, which is a dry cave in the East National Park. The Jos Maria cave contains over 1200 pictographs that have been documented by archaeologists and anthropologists.



Archaeologist used SCUBA equipment to help them with excavations in Chicho spring. They collected artifacts on several reconnaissance dives, producing an assemblage of 30 ceramic pieces. All of the ceramics are bottle forms and the assemblage included one intact vessel. Ta地o water bottles in the southeastern region of Dominican Republic are typically heart-shaped with zoomorphic or anthropomorphic heads attached on both sides. This bottle form is locally known as potiza and 28 of the ceramics followed this form. The artifact seen above is relatively simple, but the more elaborate potizas in museum collections show that the two lobes actually represent female breasts and is termed mammiform. The two non-potiza ceramics recovered were pieces of bottles with different forms, one with a double-bulbous form and one with a modeled, figurine-like body.



It is hoped that information from this site may be useful in determining how the ceramic assemblage reflects utilitarian water collecting for subsistence-related purposes like drinking and cooking. The information will also be used to determine the age, distribution and significance of these vessel types within the Taino culture area. Underwater sites have certain advantages over terrestrial sites. The underwater sites can provide better preservation of the artifacts. They are also less accessible and that makes them less subject to damage by development or looting. By creating an underwater learning center at this site, we will be able to provide cultural resources for public benefit and offer site preservation. This archaeological resource has given us important information on the Ta地o culture and will continue provide information as it is studied further and compared to other sites.



Last Updated: January 13 th 2003