restricted access 3. History, Survey, Conservation, and Interpretation of Cuban Rock Art
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3 History, Survey, Conservation, and Interpretation of Cuban Rock Art Racso Fernández Ortega, José B. González Tendero, and Divaldo A. Gutierrez Calvache Translation by Michele H. Hayward History of Cuban Rock Art Research Nineteenth Century We divide our review of Cuban rock art research into three stages based on chronology, in addition to theoretical and political currents. Nineteenthcentury works concerning the island’s rock art by both Cubans and nonCubans primarily consist of straightforward descriptions and untested statements concerning the images. These early references begin with the 1839 article “Apuntes para la Historia de Puerto Príncipe” published in the Memorias of the Real Sociedad Patriótica de La Habana (Anon.1839),which mentions figures on the walls of Cueva de María Teresa, in the mountains of Sierra de Cubitas, Camagüey Province (Núñez Jiménez 1975:154). Two years later, the noted poet Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda (1963 [1839]) referenced this same cave in her novel Sab. The Censo de Población (census) of 1847 reported the existence of a cave with pictographs at Banes, Oriente, in the present Holguín Province (Comisión de Oficiales 1847:216). This information was later reprinted in the daily Faro Industrial de La Habana on April 10 of the same year (De laTorre 1847).The Spanish geographer Miguel Rodríguez Ferrer,who pioneered archaeological investigations in Cuba, did not consider the pictographs to be works of “art” nor the products of the island’s pre-Hispanic people. He advanced this position in an 1876 publication,an opinion that later prevailed at the 1881 Madrid Congress of the Americanists. Additional information on rock art sites during this period comes from the following sources: the work by D. Ramón Piña y Peñuela that lists some sites in the Sierra de Cubitas,Camagüey Province (Piña y Peñuela 1855:249); a group of young people who explored three of the caves in the Sierra de Cubitas in 1847, who also note, but without specifics, the presence of picto- Cuban Rock Art / 23 graphs and whose encounter was subsequently published under the title Una gira cubana as part of José Ramón Betancourt’s 1887 compilation Prosa de mis versos (Betancourt 1887); the priest Antonio Perpiñá’s references in his 1889 publication to a cave with red-colored linear pictographs in the same mountain range; meager mention of one petroglyph at the extreme east end of Cuba by the French archaeologist Alphonse Pinart (1979:82) as part of a larger study of Caribbean rock images;and a two-sentence mention in Brinton (1898:255) of a petroglyph site along a river in the center of the island. Twentieth Century Twentieth-century research into Cuban rock art reflects local political developments , as well as worldwide scientific discoveries and the replacement of chronicler-based information on New World cultures by archaeologically based reconstructions. Early works comprise the following: comments on petroglyphs (note that early investigators might be unsystematic in their application of rock art terms) by the American Jesse W. Fewkes (1904:590– 591) of the Smithsonian Institution, including a reference to the Brintonmentioned petroglyph site in the center of the island;mention of the Cueva No. 1 rock art site in a 1910 publication by the Frenchman Charles Berchon; and Cuban Juan Antonio Cosculluela’s first use of the term petroglyph in a national publication to refer to carved images as opposed to painted designs (Cosculluela 1918:176–177). The latter represents an important distinction since it had yet to be accepted that the island possessed petroglyphs in addition to pictographs. Mark R.Harrington in the mid-1910s began his investigations in the eastern portion of Cuba sponsored by the Heye Foundation of the Smithsonian Institution.In the Maisí area,Guantánamo Province,he located a petroglyph assemblage in the Cueva del Agua, also known as Cueva de los Bichos or Caverna de Patana, on a raised marine terrace. The grouping included three petroglyphs plus one sculpted into a stalagmite measuring 1.2 m high, called the Gran Cemí. Harrington published descriptions of this site initially in English (Harrington 1921) and only later in Spanish versions (Harrington 1935). The petroglyph itself currently resides at the Smithsonian. Based on his analysis of ceramics present in the cave, Harrington attributed the figures to the Taíno, although a possible association with the pre-Taíno ceramic people was left open. Harrington’s rock art discoveries alongside the noted Cuban...


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