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2 Rock Art within the Bahamian Archipelago John H.Winter Introduction 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 from the last ice age to flood these carbonate banks. These factors contributed to the current island formation, which developed about 4,000 to 5,000 years ago (Sealey 1994). From a.d. 700 to European contact, the Bahamian archipelago flourished with Amerindian populations who migrated from the Greater Antilles (Granberry 1955;Keegan 1997;Winter et al. 1985). Upon arriving in the island chain, the migrants found primeval forests containing mastic (Mastichodendron foetidissmum) and mahogany (Swietenia mahogany) trees covering the relatively flat limestone islands (Winter 2001). Only Cat Island has an elevation exceeding 61 m above sea level (Sealey 1994).While these islands had no rivers or streams, freshwater ponds and subsurface freshwater lenses were alternatively present (Winter 2001). They were accessible by excavating through the nonlithified carbonate dunes or by climbing into lithified limestone solution holes. These new environments of purely sedimentary-rock origin differed notably from the settlers’ homelands, which contained sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks that formed coasts and mountains giving rise to freshwater streams and rivers (Winter et al. 1985). The disparity between these environments greatly influenced the migrants’ survival strategies. Ceramics were now created using shell rather than quartz for temper.There was a greater reliance on the sea for food resources than on the land (Winter and Gilstrap 1991). 14 / Winter The northward frontier migration of settlers from the Greater Antilles began with Ostionan Ostionoid populations,ca.a.d. 600 (Keegan 1997;Figure 1.2, this volume). Eventually Meillacan and Chican Ostionoid (Taíno) populations, via migrations, trade networks, or both, spread into the archipelago (Rouse 1992;Winter et al.1985).By the time of Christopher Columbus ’s entry into the New World in a.d. 1492, the adaptive strategies of resident and subsequent groups evolved into the Palmettan Ostionoid culture (Granberry and Winter 1995). The Europeans referred to them as Lucayans, derived from their native term Lukku-cairi (Granberry 1973). The Lucayans maintained many of the sociocultural customs of their homelands, reflected in language, geographic knowledge of the region, ceramic decoration, and religious ideology (Dunn and Kelley 1989;Keegan 1997). A specific aspect of religious cultural expression that was transferred into the Bahamian archipelago involved the execution of images on rock surfaces .To date, Bahamian rock art has been found only in caves, where petroglyphs predominate over pictographs.While research on the images has been limited,Williams (1985) included a sample based on Hoffman’s (1973) freehand sketches in his comparative study of prehistoric northern Amazonian and Antillean petroglyphs.Williams argued that most of the Antillean petroglyphs were of the Timehri type, named after anthropomorphic figures found on the Corartijn River, the Guianas, in northeast South America (Figure 1.1,this volume).These figures appear to illustrate a costume used as part of a masked fertility dance of horticultural groups on the UpperVaupes, Colombia. The Timehri type includes complete or masked anthropomorphic figures. The complete figures exhibit three components of the costume: a rayed lunate crest; a body displaying various design elements; and a basal arrangement of parallel verticals signifying a raffia skirt.These images resemble Antillean wrapped or enclosed motifs. The masked figures are often shown as faces with various forms:round,triangular,lunate with rays,and square.Williams maintains that this type is designed toward securing or maintaining objectives of subsistence horticulturalists—the kind of lifestyle that has been reconstructed for the Lucayan Taíno. The distribution of the Timehri type implies a northward diffusion from Amazonia. If Bahamian rock art is included in Williams’s classification scheme, then the issue of context must be addressed, as certain of his assigned meanings may have been lost and new ones added en route to the Antilles from Amazonia. A low frequency of geometric designs is also present. Anthropomorphic, as well as geometric, petroglyphs vary in design elements between islands of the archipelago and even within caves from the same island, suggesting that further typological classification will prove fruitful for research. Bahamian Archipelago / 15 Lucayans,like their ancestors,incorporated features of the natural cave systems into their renderings of petroglyphs.Within the Bahamian archipelago...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817381592
Print ISBN
9780817355302
MARC Record
OCLC
679303852
Pages
304
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
N
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