Jamaican Caving Notes
June 10, 2004
Position: Reserved due to archaeological resources
Field notes: R. S. STEWART
Cavers: R. S. Stewart, D. K. Roggy, M. Taylor
Time in: 10:15 EST, Time out: 12:00 EST
THREAT VULNERABILITY: High
N.B. This online version of the notes has had some details and photos removed due to the vulnerability of the cave. The full version is available only by sending a proposal to the JCO stating reasons for the request.
Kempshot Cave was visited as part of the St James project and was the second cave of the day. Unlike the first, Kempsot is listed in JU. The location was accurately GPS WAAS marked (+/- 5m), but because of the unique value of this cave, and the potential for harm, I have reserved the position and will offer no assistance in these online notes to those who might wish to find it.
Kempshot Cave is notable primarily for one reason; it was used by the Taino.
The legitimacy of the Taino presence seems certain in this cave. The rock carvings found here show aging on the order that one would expect, with a marked variation between those most exposed, and those least exposed. We're not talking dodgy pictograms; there has obviously been many years pass since the creation of these rock carvings. More will be found further down on the page on this matter.
Facing ### deg true, an entrance about # m wide, and # high, takes one over a pile of breakdown rubble into a shelter cave that is about # m wide and # high. Much of the ceiling of the chamber is hung with thick stalactites, up to 2 m long, but towards the back wall is a particular cluster that has been adorned in the distant past with the outlines of faces.
The petroglyphs in this cave have been noted before, as indicated in the very brief entry in JU for the cave: "An archaeological site. See also Banquilley Cave". An equally brief entry for Banquilley Cave states: "A cave reported by McGrath to be near Windsor Castle". The positions for both caves are given with a 1 km accuracy, but because both of the caves that we found in Kempshot are about #.# km from Windsor Castle, the JU description is of no real help. The assessment project requires us to visit every listed cave in the parish, along with new ones that we discover in the process, and both Banquilley and Kempshot are in the list. There is no doubt that what we are calling Kempshot Cave, this second cave of the day, is an archaeological site. The family who own the estate nearby were aware that it had a history of being known for having "Arawak" carvings. It is indeed Kempshot Cave. As for Banquilley Cave, the position and description are so vague that it could be one of a number of caves in Kempshot or Windsor Castle. We are regarding it as a lost cave, and will note only that in the database.
At the north end of the shelter chamber that holds the petroglyphs, a squeeze takes one into a smaller chamber that sits almost directly behind the first. This second chamber is only about 2.5 m long N-S, 1.5 wide and 1.5 high, but has midway a tight corkscrew leading down. At first, it seemed much too tight. While Dietrich was making his way into this second chamber, after having explored another small opening, I went into the corkscrew a little and carefully moved rocks up to Malibu. By the time this was done, D had joined us and gave it a try. He also found it rather tight and came out. I gave it another go and slithered down far enough to wave my feet in a void, feel a draft, and see that it became larger below me; it started to seem do-able, especially with the careful removal of a few cm's of soil from the upper part of the corkscrew. I came back out to consult Dietrich and Martel.
I was hesitant about disturbing any dirt, because this was an archaeological site, and while mulling this over suggested the others give it a try. Dietrich headed in again, feet-first, squeezed and twisted his way along, and soon disappeared from view. This was good stuff. A minute late, his muffled voice reached us up-top telling us that he was safely down, in a small chamber, and that we should come ahead. Accordingly, I wormed my own way down to join him below.
The lower-most chamber of Kempshot Cave is about 8 m long, N-S, 2.5 wide and a little less than 3 m high. It is quite dry and the formations are very, very clean. The stals are so clean in fact that I wondered at first if they'd somehow had the patina removed by humans. Instead of the usual dull grey surface, the stals showed actual calcite crystal cross-sections, 5 - 10 cm's across. I eventually satisfied myself that it was natural by examing a number of places that were obviously inaccessible by a Taino in a cleaning-frenzy.
The floor if the chamber is dry, granular, sand/clay in the area beneath the corkscrew and rubbly towards the south end. The granular material is screenable. Garbage was very limited, and probably fallen in, but a child's hair barret was found. Despite the draft in the corkscrew, there was no way on that we could find, although there were fissures that were moving the air somewhere.
We looked carefully for signs of artefacts in this lower-most chamber, but saw none. We did not disturb any of the surface material.
Biologically, this cave is of no interest. Morphologically, the stone is similar to Cundalli Cave, and seems to be tertiary with no observed bedding-planes.
Once back out to the shelter-chamber, we began to document the petroglyphs. Although I took several photos with my camera, most of the images that follow were taken by Dietrich Roggy
It was much more noticeable in the cave, but even on the photos, (none of which are as sharp as they should be, or would be if we had excellent camera-gear), you can see that the glyphs are most eroded in the area of 1 to 8. In only one place, glyph 9, at the north end of the chamber where the stal is much more protected, being to the side of the opening, is the glyph still showing well-incised edges. Here, a nose and eyes can be seen, while in the other glyphs it's only hinted at. Glyph 9 looks old all the same, but it shows less of the wear and tear that the most-exposed glyphs show. If the lot of them had been carved by an entrepeneur in the last hundred years, there wouldn't be the markedly greater erosion on the more exposed glyphs. The rock is not terribly soft; the location is not far from districts with hard cretaceous rock, so you wouldn't expect that severe a degree of weathering unless a lot of years had gone by.
A series of photos follow. They have all been reduced in scale from the originals. It begins with two pictures showing the central part of the shelter-chamber, and then all obvious glyphs, from 1 to 9. Examination of the photos afterwards suggest another glyph between #1 and #2. It should be noted that #4 and #7 are not ovals but rather deep cuts into the side of the stal, with #7 also having more cuts below the main part. I'm not sure if these are actual petroglyphs, or something added over the following centuries, but it seemed best to document everything that we saw.
Overview of the main section of the petroglyphs, taken from the entrance looking in, with the camera pointing at a bearing of apx ### deg true.
Petroglyphs 1, 2, 3, 4.
Now follows the observed petroglyphs, from South to North, numbered 1-9.
Photos reserved. By request only. Contact the JCO for the full version of this page.
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