Saturday, June 20, 2015


As I explain below, I wanted this to be a first-hand report of wonderful rock art that I hoped to see in Jamaica. It did not turn out that way. So this is now a review of publications by Lesley-Gail Atkinson (listed below in References) on the rock art of Jamaica. 
Jamaian petroglyphs,
Years ago we took a cruise up the Alaskan Inside Passage on a smaller ship. During that trip the Purser's office on the ship would go to great lengths to help us make plans for our visits ashore with helpful information like the directions to Wrangell's Petroglyph Beach. They were friendly and hospitable and went out of their way to help. Well, now we have just completed a Western Caribbean cruise on the Serenade of the Seas/Royal Caribbean, and it was a completely different experience.


Leslie-Gail Atkinson, Rock Art of the Caribbean,
Fig. 4.3, p. 52, Bird pictographs at Mountain
River Cave, Photograph: Evelyn Thompson.

I had confirmed that Jamaica (which was a scheduled stop) has numerous rock art sites so I took my packet of information including locations and even some pictures to the Shore Excursion desk to ask for help in arranging visits to one or more sites. Now this is the desk of which the cruise line's promotional material says "let our helpful Shore Excursion staff customize your shore excursion for your most memorable cruising experience."  The result was certainly memorable, but in a very negative way - they refused to lift a finger or make a phone call to try to find directions, or a guide, or even where I could look for postcards of the Jamaican rock art. In other words they totally blew me off, essentially asking me to go away and quit bothering them. There may actually still be cruises out there that will help you try to do what you want to do, but Royal Caribbean is certainly not one of them.
Leslie-Gail Atkinson, Rock Art of the Caribbean,
Fig. 4.2, p. 51, Birdmen pictographs at Mountain
River Cave, Photograph: Evelyn Thompson.

It turns out that with some online searching and a few books I can find out a little about rock art in Jamaica to pass on to you, but not with any help from Royal Caribbean.


Leslie-Gail Atkinson, Rock Art of the Caribbean,
Fig. 4.1, p. 50.

Most of the rock art on Jamaica was created by the early Taino inhabitants of the island. Sources agree that caves were of great significance to the Taino, serving as receptacles for the creation and nurturing of life and as its entry point into the world. Some myths suggest that caves were the place of origin for not only humans, but the sun and moon as well. Apparently caves were also used by the Taino for burials and sanctuaries, and as places for shrines where their Shaman could work to keep balance. Much of the rock art on Jamaica is also found in caves. Most of this seems to consist of petroglyphs of faces, although Mountain River cave reportedly has a large number of painted images.

Leslie-Gail Atkinson, Jamaica: The Earliest Inhabitants,
Fig. 13.5, p. 181, Petroglyphs at Canoe Valley.

Two of the books I found are listed below in references. These writings by Leslie-Gail Atkinson were the most valuable. I have copied illustrations from these so you can indeed see what is to be found. Also, a little internet searching will give you an idea of the rock art to be found in Jamaica. In particular, the book Rock Art of the Caribbean provides a good overview and some helpful analysis. I got my access to this through interlibrary loan, but if you are into building your rock art library I would recommend this one. A number of papers by varying authors in this volume cover a broad spectrum and offer a great beginning to understanding the rock art of Jamaica, and elsewhere.

 So, based upon what I can find, Jamaica does not have any really world class art on its rocks, but remember it is all rock art, and is all valid. I am sorry that I could not present this report based on first hand data, but don't blame me - blame Royal Caribbean Cruises.

Atkinson, Lesley-Gail
2006    Jamaica: The Earliest Inhabitants: The Dynamics of the Jamaican Taino, University of West Indies Press, Jamaica

Atkinson, Lesley-Gail
2009    Sacred Landscapes: Imagery, Iconogaphy, and Ideology in Jamaican Rock Art, p. 41-57, in Rock Art of the Caribbean, edited by Michele H. Hayward, Lesley-Gail Atkinson, and Michael A. Cinquino, University of Alabama Press, Tuscaloosa.






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