Dominican Republic // Santo Domingo //

Museo del Hombre Dominicano

The Museo del Hombre Dominicano (Tues–Sun 10am–5pm; RD$50; English language guide RD$50; 687 3622) holds an extraordinary collection of Taino artefacts and an anthropological exhibit on Dominican fiestas patronales. The ground floor is mostly concerned with the gift shop, but does display a dozen stone obelisks and Taino burial mounds found near Boca Chica in the 1970s. The first floor is office space; the second floor consists of one large room bearing display cases of Taino sculpture, beginning with seated human figures and cemis – small stone idols that stood in for the gods during rituals, possessing large, inward- spiralling eyes and flared nostrils. Further down the room is an extensive collection of flints, hatchets and stone spearheads, which can be scanned over before passing to the two cases bearing beautiful animal sculptures and ceremonial daggers. At the far end of the room you’ll find jewellery with incredibly intricate carvings made from coral, tooth, stone and conch shell, a case filled with spectacularly nasty-looking death heads and a few examples of the artwork created by the Tainos’ ancestors in the Amazon basin.

The third floor moves to Dominican culture after Columbus, with emphasis on the African influence. The first room focuses on the slave trade; the next room is taken up by a comparison of the rural dwellings of African peasants and Dominican campesinos. These are followed by a terrific exhibition on syncretist religious practices in the DR, including photographs of various rural fiestas patro- nales and a Dominican Vodú altar, with Catholic iconography standing in for African gods, votive candles and a sacrifice of cigarettes, a chicken and a bottle of rum. From here walk past the display of local musical instruments that originated in Africa to three large glass cases depicting costumed Carnival celebrations in Monte Cristi, La Vega and Santo Domingo.