TAíNO CROCODILE VOMIT SPATULA – DOMINICAN REPUBLIC – CARIBBEAN – 13-15th century AD
The Spatula Vomitivo, better known as the vomit spatula, is a tool made and used for religious purpose by the Taíno people.
The Taíno were part of a complex mosaic of natives cultures inhabiting the islands of the Caribbean and were the first indigenous people of the western hemisphere to meet Spanish explorers.
The Spatula was used for purification as part of the Cohoba snuffing ceremony. In this ritual the shamans (“Behiques”) of the Taíno inhaled the seeds of the cohobana tree, by use of a pipe, to produce a psychedelic effect in purpose to communicate with deities. The shamans used the spatula prior to this, by inserting the object into the throat, resulting in vomiting, as the purification of the body was thought to intensify the drugs effect.
Although many Pre-Columbian cultures used purging as a cleansing practice, the vomit spatula appears to be a unique Taíno tool.
Taino Spatualae were often made from wood or shell, but in most cases they were carved from the rib of manatee. Compared to other Amerindian Cultures, manatee bone is very prevalent in Taino art, probably due to the fact that besides manatee there were no large animals on the islands, so the large seacreatures were probably one of the most important resources for meat and bone. Besides it’s accessibility, manatee bone is also soft, which makes it a pleasing medium to work with.
The end of the spatula, held during insertion, was usually carved into a human or animal like cemi.
On this particular object we can identify the head of a crocodile, characterized by the wholesome dental display and the pronounced knob on the end of the nose. In Middle america crocodiles were often associated with fertility deities, as their link to water and land indicated the regenerative power of birth and rebirth.
Thoroughly examined and pronounced to be authentic by specialist in Taíno art, Larry Roberts, author of Taíno Sculpture: Art of the Gods, SBP Books, 2014.
Ex Private Belgian collection
Ex Paul Kessels, Antwerp
A similar spatula in the collection of Paul and Dora Janssen, Antwerp, Belgium, since 2008 in loan to the MAS (Museum aan de stroom), Antwerp, published inLife and Death in Precolombian America on the Under and Upper World: with the Paul and Dora Janssen- Arts Collection, BAI Publishers, Schoten, 2012.
L. Roberts, Taíno Sculpture: Art of the Gods, SBP Books, 2014, p. 51.
N. Saunders, The Peoples of the Caribbean: An Encyclopedia of Archaeology and Traditional Culture, ABC-Clio, Oxford, 2005, p. 153, 278, 324.
R. Alegria, Taíno, Pre-Columbian Art and Culture from the Caribbean, The Monacelli Press, New York, 1998.
17cm high – 3,5cm wide – 2cm depth
All dimensions are without the mounting
Object collected in Dominican Republic and incorporated in European collection at beginning of the 1960’s.