|Taino Art At Mountain River Cave, St. Catherine|
In the lush green hills of Guanaboa Vale, in the parish of St. Catherine, there is a cave with large collection of petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock art) … evidence of the existence of Jamaica’s earliest inhabitants, the Tainos.
The Tainos, an Arawakan speaking people, settled in many different parts of Jamaica, enjoying a relatively peaceful existence, with a well organized societal structure. The arrival of the Spanish in 1494 signaled the beginning of the end for them, and the combination of overwork, abuse and exposure to certain diseases, resulted in their ultimate demise.
Once you reach the caves you'll be amazed at the remarkably, well preserved drawings on the flat underside of the cave roof. Taino artist, using black pigment, created a group of pictographs depicting birds, turtles, lizards, fish, frogs, humans and some abstract patterns. The exact age of the artwork is unknown but archaeologists estimate that they may be between 500 and1300 years old. The experts believe that the emphasis on food items suggests that the Tainos used the cave for religious rites intended to ensure successful hunting.
The protective grill at the entrance of the site and the guard rails were designed and installed by the Jamaica Defense Force (JDF). In May 1982, the Archaeological Society of Jamaica presented the cave as a gift to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust. The site was declared a national monument in April 2003.
The archaeological treasure that awaits you at Mountain River Cave is well worth the three quarters of an hour trek on uneven terrain. Cultivations of cocoa, jackfruit and other native plants provide shelter from the sun as well as excite the senses with their strong, distinctive smell. Take a break and enjoy the waterfall on the way to the cave and essentially bask in the smells, feel and sounds of nature all around you. To be more comfortable on your walk, sturdy shoes or boots are recommended.
Photos courtesy of Jamaica Heritage Trust.
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