Taíno Gallery

The Taíno Legend

Before time memorial, the legendary Taíno peoples who inhabited the Caribbean island of Borikén played an abundance of board games, most of them now time forgotten. Some of these games they played not as a form of entertainment, but rather as a means to more useful ends. "The Battle of the Wooden Spheres" was one of the games that were played in special occasions, and then only by the cacikes (chiefs) of the tribes. The game was played when it became necessary to settle a dispute between two tribes. It was then that two peaceful minds would engage in a battle of wits—for it was sacrilege for Taínos to wage war amongst themselves; although, they were fearless fighters when their small island had to be defended; as it happened quite often when the bloodthirsty Caribes came charging across the sea from their strongholds in the Orinoco Delta in what is now Venezuela. They raided the island repeatedly looking to slay the Taíno warriors and take their women and children to use as slaves, but the Caribes were always driven back.

To play the game, the cacike of each tribe was "armed" with eighteen wooden spheres, three of each of six types of wood. Each cacike would appoint a warrior to "move the spheres" as he/she instructed. (The great cacike Yuisa of the Haimanio Yukayeke was probably the first female ruler in America).

The two "combatants" would set the spheres at opposite edges of the batey (a plaza, used for tribal ceremonies—and as an immense gameboard when there was a need to "move the spheres"). The "movement of the spheres" would begin as the older cacike conceded the honor of moving the first sphere to the younger, less experienced one; thereafter the two appointed warriors would alternate turns moving the spheres as the cacikes instructed into pits (36 in total) dug out of the hard surface of the batey following strict rules of placement.

Solid American Red Oak, solid American Black Walnut and solid African Padauk are used to handcraft the Taíno gameboard.

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