In ancient Taíno cultures, frogs and the color green were symbols of female fertility related to beneficial rains. The most important female deity, Attabeira, also was represented as a “Frog Woman.” This vessel would have been used to serve a beverage or broth.
This is a relatively typical pottery vessel from the late time period in the Dominican Republic. It dates to sometime around 1200 to 1500 A.D. prior to the arrival of Europeans. It was fairly common to decorate the vessels with what we call adornos, which are usually animal or a human animal — anthropomorphic or zoomorphic if you want the terms that we use to sound fancy — and they represent important animals in the belief systems of the native peoples.
So the Taino had a special place for frogs. We see frogs represented in shell pendants, in petroglyphs (carvings on the walls of caves), in the pottery vessels and frogs are a symbol of fertility. Frogs are commonly associated with rainfall; often they will croak or make noise before it rains or after rains, in some cases they become more common as the eggs mature and they become tadpoles and then frogs. And the frog has a very special place because it’s associated with the female goddess of fertility, a woman known as Attabeira, and she is the representation of what you might call the “mother goddess” or the “giver of life” to the Taino peoples. But frogs also show up in sort of smaller form, less elaborate form, indicating their importance.
It is often difficult archaeologically to understand what people were thinking, so these kind of representations are sort of our only way into starting to gain an understanding of people’s belief systems.
Curator, Caribbean Archaeology
Florida Museum of Natural History
Vessel with Frog Adorno (face)
Made by Taíno people, Dominican Republic
Dates to ~AD 1300-1500