Caribbean Rock Art Reveals Coexistence of Taino Tribe Beliefs and Christianity from Europe

Stephen Nartey September 21, 2022
Cave art/Photo credit: Smithsonian magazine

The historic inscriptions has Christian symbols, names of individuals, Latin and Spanish phrases in one of the 200 caves of the Caribbean. 

It also details of the spiritual experiences, personal insights on customs and cultural practices of the of the Taino people.

The rock art provided a rare cultural interaction between the Taino people and Spanish explorers in a cave on the Mona Islands. 

In a statement by the British Museum, the archaeologists found dates, names, Christian symbols and inscriptions in Latin and Spanish saying “dios te perdone” which literally means May God forgive you and “verbum caro factum est” which also means the word was made flesh. 

The cave art depicted the religious relationship between Spanish explorers and Taino people that dated back to the 16th century after archaeological analysis confirmed the details. 

This findings were as a result of collaborative work between Anglo-Puerto Rican researchers who unraveled the evidence of early religious interactions between Europeans and Native Americans. The inscriptions gives further meaning to how personal religion meant to early Caribbean people. 

A researcher with the National Geographic, A.R. Williams, said the cave art might have been possible because the Spanish explorers would have relied on the assistance to navigate the caves, allowing time for the inhabitants to inscribe the religious influences on them. 

A curator at the British Museum, Jago Cooper, said the new evidence shows that early Europeans were making inroads in their exploration of caves and expressed interest in the cultural practices of the Taino people. 

The Taino people inhabit one of the small islands of the Caribbean. It is believed they existed for 5,000 years before Christopher Columbus second exploration in the area in 1494. 

The population of the Taino is estimated to have hit three million on the islands. 

The researchers said the cave art goes to dismiss prejudice that the early European sought to impose Christianity on early Americans. 

One of the co-authors of the findings, Dr. Alice Sampson, said the evidence does not depict marauding missionaries forcing their religious views on the early Americans but rather shared knowledge of spirituality with them.  

She said despite the island becoming an important trading route, its culture was not tampered by the arrival of the Europeans. 

She said the communities undoubtedly were exposed to the Influence of the European but they forged new identities with the Taino people.

Dr. Alice said one insights they team gained was the extent of diversity among the early Americans which was recorded with cave arts at the entrances of the rock. 

She said they have learned knowledge about how the Island was colonized and the subtle approach the European adopted to engage the Taino people. 

She said the findings enabled them track the beginnings of new religious interactions and customs among the early Caribbean people of Taino and the Europeans. 

Last Edited by:Sedem Ofori Updated: September 21, 2022


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