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Rock Art of the Caribbean

Michele Hayward, Divaldo Antonio Gutierrez Calvache, Racso Fernandez Ortega, Pedro A. Alvarado Layos, Adolfo Lopez Belando, Phillip Allsworth-Jones

Publication Year: 2009

This compilation, by an international grouping of scholars, focuses on the nature of Caribbean rock art or rock graphics and makes clear the region's substantial and distinctive rock art tradition. Thorough and comparative, it includes data on the history of rock graphic research, the nature of the assemblages (image numbers, types, locations), and the legal, conservation, and research status of the image sites. Chapters on these topics cover research on the islands of Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guadeloupe, Aruba, and Bonaire. The prehispanic rock art and other ceremonial structures and artifacts, along with enthnohistorical accounts of the region at Contact, projected backward in time, all point to an active ritual and ceremonial life involving commoners, religious specialists, and elites in differing and interconnected roles and for diverse purposes. The selective use of common rock graphic design and physical elements can be seen in the distribution and execution of the carved and painted images. Pecked, ground, abraded, and scratched petroglyphs, along with pictographs done frequently in red, black, white and orange hues are found on a range of rock surfaces including limestones, granites, diorites, and andesites. Caves/rock shelters and rock formations associated with water sources (water ways, pools, ocean) account for the two most common locations, followed by ball court sites, inland rock outcroppings and beach rock.
In addition to specific area presentations, the work includes a review of recent advances in Caribbean rock graphic studies including dating and interpretative models; the application of a new documentation method and resulting computer manipulation advantages; a conservation project in Jamaica that has implications for the preservation and interpretation of the site; and a proposed dating sequence for the Lesser Antillean
Windward Islands.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Series: Caribbean Archaeology and Ethnohistory


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-x

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pp. xi-15

The origin of this book was at the 2003 World Archaeological Congress (WAC-5), Washington, DC, for which the editors organized a session en-titled “Caribbean Rock Art.” This session provided the opportunity to promote Caribbean rock art to a wider global audience. The editors subsequently included additional Caribbean islands beyond those presented at the congress ...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-12

The study of and interest in Caribbean rock art possess a long, though largely circumscribed history. Early European chroniclers, while excluding direct mention of the area’s rock images, nonetheless provide a comprehensive context to aid in the understanding of this form of cultural expression. Later interested amateurs and professionals have continued to detail the varied and ...

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2. Rock Art within the Bahamian Archipelago

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pp. 13-21

The Bahamian archipelago, which consists of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands, lies 97 km north of the Greater Antillean islands of Cuba and Hispaniola. The archipelago evolved from shallow- water carbonates beginning 200 million years ago. During the past two million years, the sea level first lowered then rose, causing the meltwater ...

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3. History, Survey, Conservation, and Interpretation of Cuban Rock Art

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pp. 22-40

We divide our review of Cuban rock art research into three stages based on chronology, in addition to theoretical and political currents. Nineteenth- century works concerning the island’s rock art by both Cubans and non- Cubans primarily consist of straightforward descriptions and untested state-ments concerning the images. These early references begin with the 1839 ...

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4. Sacred Landscapes: Imagery, Iconography,and Ideology in Jamaican Rock Art

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pp. 41-57

Rock art scholarship in the Caribbean has traditionally been descriptive, mainly a narrative of the discovery of sites and the aesthetic elements observed. This trend is also noted for Jamaica, where the earliest rock art discovery involved the 1820 reporting of the Dryland petroglyph, later published by Duerden (1897). Since then, 45 rock art sites have been reported island ...

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5. Caring for the Spirit Helpers: Recording, Graffiti Removal, Interpretation, and Management of the Warminster/Genus Rockshelter, Jamaica

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pp. 58-77

In this chapter, we will argue that observations placed within relevant physical and ethnographic contexts greatly improve our understanding of rock art expression. While a variety of observations at a site are critical for detecting details, only knowledge of physical and ethnographic processes is sufficient to realize the importance of those details. We further suggest that certain de-...

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6. The Rock Images of Haiti: A Living Heritage

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pp. 78-89

Two major cultural periods mark the prehistory of Haiti. The first roughly spans the six millennia of the Lithic and Archaic ages. On Haiti, these hunting and gathering cultures are known from habitation and cave sites; coastal shell middens; stone, shell, and fl int collections; and funerary sites (Veloz Jacques Roumain, the father of Haitian archaeology, published a seminal ...

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7. Rock Art Studies in the Dominican Republic

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pp. 90-101

Lithic and Archaic age people reached Hispaniola around 4000 and 2400 b.c., respectively, followed by Early Ceramic people around 100 to 200 b.c. or even several centuries earlier (Atiles Bidó and López Belando 2006; Rouse 1992). These new and resident pre-Columbian cultures on the island found themselves in a highly diversifi ed geomorphological environment. Three ...

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8. Rock Art of the Dominican Republic and Caribbean

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pp. 102-114

The Dominican Republic possesses over 500 rock art sites, a number that continues to grow, as even the recent official registry of 453 locations in Table 7.1 of the previous chapter in this volume demonstrates. The relatively short tradition of Dominican rock art investigations, coupled with substantial unexplored areas, means that it is still possible to be the first to experience the ...

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9. Rock Art of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands

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pp. 115-136

North Americans, particularly Jesse W. Fewkes (1903), Irving Rouse (1949), and Monica Frassetto (1960), along with Ricardo Alegría (1941) from Puerto Rico, provided initial surveys and commentaries on the nature and dating of Puerto Rico’s rock images in the first half of the twentieth century. Since the 1970s, rock art investigations have increased in volume and scope, involv-...

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10. The Rock Art of Guadeloupe, French West Indies

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pp. 137-146

Father Breton’s seventeenth-century sketches of rock art on Guadeloupe represent the earliest record of pre-Hispanic carved images on the island (Breton 1978). Breton did not, however, believe the petroglyphs were pro-duced by “the savages,” instead attributing them to the Spanish who occupied the island prior to the arrival of the French. Two centuries later, in the ...

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11. Contextual Analysis of the Lesser Antillean Windward Islands Petroglyphs: Methods and Results

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pp. 147-160

Rock art sites in the Lesser Antilles have long been known, as well as being the object of investigation by various individuals (Dubelaar 1995). Most of this area’s rock art research can be characterized as descriptive. Data such as the geographical locations of the sites and the recording of the engraved images are made the focus of studies. Normally, minimal interpretation of ...

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12. Prehistoric Rock Paintings of Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles

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pp. 161-174

Dominee G. Bosch, as part of his notes concerning a visit to the island in 1836, was the fi rst to mention Bonairean rock paintings (Bosch 1836:219). Father Antonius J. van Koolwijk’s 1875 sketches of the Onima pictographs constitute the earliest documentation of Bonairean prehistoric rock paint-ings. Shortly thereafter, Karl Martin (1888:134) noted that Bonaire possessed ...

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13. Rock Art of Aruba

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pp. 175-187

The island of Aruba lies approximately 30 km north of Venezuela’s Para-guanà peninsula (see Figure 1.1, this volume) and measures roughly 10 km wide by 31 km long (Dijkhoff and Linville 2004). Aruba possesses a high site density suggesting that Preceramic groups beginning around 2500 b.c.–a.d. 1000 and later Ceramic Age peoples, post–a.d. 1000, had successfully ...

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14. A New Method for Recording Petroglyphs: The Research Potential of Digitized Images

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pp. 188-197

In this chapter we outline a method for recording, preserving, and visualizing rock art, in particular petroglyphs. The process creates accurate three- dimensional (3-D) textured models of carved surfaces, making the intricate geometry clearly and readily available for study. Rock art researchers can overcome problems concerning limited access to the images and the lack of ...

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15. The Mute Stones Speak: The Past, Present, and Future of Caribbean Rock Art Research

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pp. 198-240

Historically, rock art research in the Antilles involved image documentation and classification, complemented by diverse levels of interpretation and con-servation efforts. Until recently progress in the investigation of the region’s rock art has been hampered by various factors: (1) geography, (2) develop-mental history, (3) dating methods, (4) conceptual biases, (5) data set limita-...

References Cited

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pp. 241-270


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pp. 271-272


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pp. 273-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780817381592
E-ISBN-10: 0817381597
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817355302
Print-ISBN-10: 0817355308

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 55
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Caribbean Archaeology and Ethnohistory