New research on the Caribbeans largest concentration of indigenous preColumbian rock art

New research by academics from our university and the British Museum working with colleagues from the British Geological Survey and Cambridge University outlines the science behind the largest concentration of indigenous pre-Columbian rock art in the Caribbean. Published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, the paper is entitled ‘Artists before Columbus: A multi-method characterization of the materials and practices of Caribbean cave art’.

Written by a collective of academics, including Dr Alice Samson from our School of Ancient History and Archaeology and Dr Jago Cooper from the British Museum, the paper is the result of three-years of research from 2013 to 2016, on the currently uninhabited and remote Mona Island in the Caribbean.

The paper details National Geographic funded fieldwork by an Anglo-Puerto Rican team, who uncovered extensive and undocumented rock art deep inside the islands labyrinthine cave systems. It presents the first results of the dating of the art, as well as insights into the artistic choices made about location, technique, and paint recipes of the time.

Victor Serrano, member of the student team and PhD distance learning student in the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said: “Most of the precolonial pictographs are in very narrow spaces deep in the caves, some are very hard to access, you have to crawl to get to them, they are very extensive and humidity is very high but it is extremely rewarding. Imagine a social networking site, where instead of having a page with posts of people here you have an actual cave wall or roof full of different pictographs.”

Dr Alice Samson, co-author of the paper, explains: “Scientific analyses from the team have provided the first dates for rock art in the Caribbean - illustrating that these images are pre-Columbian made by artists exploring and experimenting deep underground.

“The conservation-minded approach we used squeezed every bit of information we could out of the discovery using multiple methods that are relevant to the studies of vulnerable rock art worldwide.”