Cave art found on the secluded Caribbean island of Mona suggests a never-before-seen religious dialogue between Native Americans and early European settlers, a recent study published in the journal Antiquity reports.
Mona is the third largest island in the Puerto Rican archipelago and was once a key stop for sailing routes between Europe and early America. It was also one of the first places where European settlers interacted with indigenous people of the Americas, sparking a key period of cultural transformation.
While archaeologists have previously discovered spiritual iconography on this island, the most recent study — run by a team of researchers from Europe, Puerto Rico, and the United States — uncovered a series of signatures that includes both Christian iconography as well as Latin and Spanish religious phrases. Over 30 inscriptions were found in all, and each was found within a series of chambers that also contained indigenous iconography, UPI reports.
The mix of symbolism in the cave art reveals a rare example of intercultural religious dynamics during the time of the first European settlers.
“Increasing use of interdisciplinary approaches and archaeometric analyses have provided new understandings of colonial processes that are more nuanced than mere oppression, domination and, in the case of the Caribbean, indigenous extinction,” said study co-author Alice Samson from the University of Leicester School of Archaeology and Ancient History, in a statement.
This finding gives new insight into the way both European and Native American identities shifted throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. It also sheds new light on early encounters between indigenous populations and the first Europeans in the Americas. As a result, it could change the way researchers view the time period or force them to think about those interactions in a new light.
“This is a unique site that helps us to understand the origins of cultural identity in the Americas, the start of a process that continues right up to the modern day,” added Dr. Jago Cooper from the British Museum.