The Virgin Islands have a storied and fascinating history, and it goes back further than one may think. A team from TLE recently ventured to the Island of St. John, and it’s Virgin Islands National Park to experience this history first hand.
Deep within the Virgin Islands National Park, miles down one of the parks longest trails, lies one of the few natural water sources (other than rain) on any of the Virgin Islands. It is a small trickle of water coming out of rocks some twenty feet up a small cliff. Below, small pools are in an idyllic setting of lush jungle filled with palms and ferns. Dragon flies dart about trying to capture their next meal. A mongoose scurries up some rocks off to the side. No where is there a more perfect representation of the Virgin Islands of the past.
If you were to look closer though, just above the highest pool, an odd shape can be seen on the rock face. Next to it, even more shapes can be seen. These are the famous Petroglyphs of St. John. Carved by the Taino people beginning around 200 A.D. and ending with the collapse of Taino settlements in the area after European arrival in the late 1400’s. The small water fall and pools were sacred to the Taino as they were one of the only reliable water sources on the Island; the trickle of water is unaffected by lack of rainfall. Around the pools the Taino carved depictions of local animals and plants, ones that they relied on for sustenance and medicinal uses. Other carvings seem to represent people or gods. Relatively little is known about the glyphs themselves however, with many theories concerning their origin and meaning. Other carvings have been found throughout the park, even as recently as last year. Other collections of ancient petroglyphs ca be found throughout the caribbean.
The petroglyphs in St. John are protected by the National Park Service within Virgin Islands National Park. To see the glyphs for yourself, find the park’s Reef Bay Trail off Centerline Road. Follow the trail downhill for just over two miles, then turn right at the marker for the Petroglyphs Trail. The waterfall, pools, and glyphs are only a further three tenths of a mile down the trail. Be prepared for the steadily uphill two mile climb back to the trail head. Always bring water, proper clothing and shoes, and use sun protection. Never hike alone, and always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back. Free maps, basic trail guides, and park specific safety information are available from the Park Visitor Center in Cruz Bay.
For more information on the Petroglyphs and the National Park, visit the official NPS website at: http://www.nps.gov/viis/index.htm
For information on visiting St. John or the other U.S. Virgin Islands please visit U.S. Virgin Islands Tourism at: http://www.visitusvi.com/
If you are feeling even more adventurous after your hike you should try our ziplines! Visit Tree Limin’ Extreme at our website www.ziplinestthomas.com, or call us at 340-777-9477. Reservations are required.
Stay Historically Extreme!
-The TLE Historians