A team of scientist has uncovered new evidence of an early religious dialogue between Europeans and Native Americans in the Caribbean, expressed in early colonial inscriptions and commentaries written within the walls of a cave system on the island of Mona. The caves served as sacred spaces for the indigenous peoples and the graffiti made by Europeans emerges among a pre-existing indigenous spiritual iconography.
The island of Mona was located on a key Atlantic route from Europe to the Americas. It is in the heart of 16th century Spanish colonial projects and was recorded by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage in 1494 AD. Since 2013 a team of scientists from various English and Puerto-Rican institutions records the over 500-year-old wall writings. The island is also one of the most cavernous regions, per square kilometre, in the world. Among these institutions are The British Museum, the School of Archaeology and Ancient History, University of Leicester, US Coastal Cave Survey , the Puerto Rican Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, Centre of Advanced Studies of Puerto Rico and the Caribe, and University of Puerto Rico.
Since 2013, exploration and survey of around 70 cave systems has revealed that Mona’s caves include the greatest diversity of preserved indigenous iconography in the Caribbean, with thousands of motifs recorded in dark-zone chambers far from cave entrances. More than 30 historic inscriptions include named individuals, phrases in Latin and Spanish, dates and Christian symbols that occur within a series of connecting chambers all within the area of indigenous iconography.