Celebration of Jamaica's heritage
In our ongoing series highlighting Jamaica's history through artefacts, we focus on the jade petaloid celt (axe head).
Petaloid celts were cutting tools that the Tainos made from river stones. These were chiselled and shaped to an edge and made in a variety of sizes to cut and prepare food, with or without being fixed to a wooden handle. Sculpted to their pleasant 'petaloid' or teardrop shape, it is believed that celts were also ceremonial in use and given beautifully polished finishes.
They are said to have been used as gifts or as a form of exchange. In Jamaica and among African descendants from other Caribbean islands, celts are often called 'thunderbolts'. Jamaican oral tradition often refers to them as having spiritual or cosmic force.
Over time, Taino celts have been chanced upon and collected, most often by farmers, and in many households they are kept to cool and purify drinking water.
- Information compiled by Sharifa Balfour, assistant curator, National Museum Jamaica, Institute of Jamaica