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10 The Rock Art of Guadeloupe, French West Indies Gérard Richard Translation by James R. Fish; revision of translation by Michele H. Hayward, Lesley-Gail Atkinson, and Michael A. Cinquino History of Research 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 produced 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 1980s, Cornelius Dubelaar conducted the first systematic rock art survey in the Lesser Antilles,including Guadeloupe.He subsequently published his results in two books:South American and Caribbean Petroglyphs (1986a) and The Petroglyphs of the LesserAntilles,TheVirgin Islands andTrinidad (1995).Dubelaar recorded six sites in Guadeloupe, with a total of 313 petroglyphs. He also noted that the archipelago of Guadeloupe encompassed more than 50 percent of the reported petroglyph sites in the Lesser Antilles. In 1991 and 1992, Alain Gilbert and I had the opportunity to update Dubelaar’s inventory. Construction projects and the passing of hurricanes such as Marilyn (1995) and Lenny (1999),along with additional field investigations , increased the tally to nearly 1,200 petroglyphs from 27 sites distributed within seven communes. Geographic Distribution Guadeloupe is the principal island within the archipelago of Guadeloupe (see Figure 1.1, this volume).The island is divided into two main geological zones, Basse-Terre and Grande-Terre. The western region, Basse-Terre, is volcanic, mountainous, and well drained. Grande-Terre, which is located to the east, is primarily limestone, with characteristic arid karstic plateaus. Rock art site distribution within the island varies according to the two 138 / Richard geological zones.The most notable petroglyph sites are found in the southern region of Basse-Terre, at the base of the dominating La Soufrière volcano. The rock art sites are especially frequent in an area delineated by the Pérou River at Capesterre-Belle-Eau and the Plessis River between the Baillif and Vieux-Habitant communes. In Grande-Terre, petroglyphs are found at the rockshelter Abri Patate, located in a dry valley within the Moule Commune.They are also found at the cave site Grotte du Morne Rita north of the town of Capesterre de Marie Galante, on Marie Galante, an adjoining island within the Guadeloupe archipelago . Environment I,along with others,believe rock art locations were primarily selected by the native people because of environmental factors, in particular, specifically, freshwater resources. In most cases, sites are located in proximity to a freshwater source such as a waterfall or river mouth, as evidenced by the Pont Bourbeyre site.The following descriptions of Guadeloupe’s rock art sites illustrate this relationship between water sources and rock art. Site Descriptions Basse-Terre Petroglyph Locations Capesterre-Belle-Eau. Father Breton mentioned this site,located at the mouth of the Pérou River, in his chronicles, revealing that these petroglyphs are distinct from those at the principal sites at Trois-Rivières in Basse-Terre. A large geometric anthropomorphic face with crying eyes over a shield marked by a St. Andrew’s type cross predominates.The incisions are deep except for two big ears, which frame the face, that are barely visible. This location at the mouth of the Pérou River was the only known site in this area until the mid-1980s,when three other sites were discovered along the Bananier River (1984);further sites were later found at Islet Pérou (2000) and along the Grand Carbet River (2003). Bananier River. In 1984, Henry Petitjean Roget discovered an engraved rock and a flat milling stone in the Bananier riverbed. Deep grooves outline the image framed by two ears, with the shape of the rock suggesting a zoomorphic representation. Seven years later, I located, farther downriver, a second elongated rock. This time there was no doubt that it represented a manatee,an animal sacred to the Amerindians.The river location is also close to a mangrove, the natural home of this species. Islet Pérou. At the end of 1999,Hurricane Lenny generated a current in the Rock Art of Guadeloupe, French West Indies / 139 Pérou River powerful enough to overturn a boulder weighing nearly 10 tons. The formerly buried part concealed several engraved anthropomorphic faces and the design of a bird’s head. This zoomorphic motif is rare in the Lesser Antilles. It is similar to those encountered at...


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