Bromeliad - Maroon Town Schaw Castle Cave Clive, Malibu, Ivor Second pitch, Belfield Cave Malibu and Ivor Miss Lilly's Shop
Caving News
Jamaican Caves Organization
JCO Main Page
Support Jamaican Caving
Contact: JamaicanCaves.Org

A Correlation Between Taino Petroglyphs and the Solstice

Dietrich K. Roggy


During a March 6, 2005 visit by the JCO to Jacksonís Bay Caves, Archaeologist Ron Dalton proposed that Taino petroglyphs (rock carvings left behind by the Taino Amerindian people) may well serve as markers for a primitive calendar. He hypothesized that such carvings (typically found around the entrance of caves) may well be lit by the morning sun on either the summer or winter solstice.

Taino Petroglyphs - Pantrepant East Cave On a May 15, 2005 expedition by the JCO to Pantrepant East Cave, I found 2 petroglyphs, partially covered with soil (see caving notes for more details). On this occasion I made use of the surveying compass that I had brought along to note that this glyph faced about 70 degrees (mag), toward a stalactite that might well cast a shadow just above it at sunrise on the summer solstice. Those of us present spoke about finding out what bearing the solar solstice might have had during the time of Taino habitation and Stefan said that he would use a program that he has to calculate that bearing sometime in the future.

On June 21, 2005 I arose before dawn and went onto the roof of a friendís house in Montego Bay. At 5:55 am I used my surveying compass to very carefully get a bearing on the sun, rising over a wooded hillside nearby. I checked the bearing a few times and did my utmost to get the most precise measurement I could. The bearing I read was 68 degrees (mag).

This result seems to be significant, especially considering the following factors involved. The first bearing I took was probably not as precise as the second. Some variation exists in the bearing of the position of the solstice sunrise from the year 800AD (rough historical estimate for when the Taino came to Jamaica) until today.

Proposed Action by the JCO:

I wish to propose that we, the JCO do the following with regard to this subject:

1. Determine a rough time scale for Taino habitation, or at least the rough time during which such carvings might have been made.
2. Determine a range for the bearings of sunrise on both summer and winter solstice, and possibly bearings for sunsets as well.
3. Record the bearing of any petroglyphs we find in the future, toward any opening in a wall or rocks or obvious landmark that might cast a shadow (a single stalactite hanging in an opening, etc).
4. Compile data and perform statistical analysis to test the hypothesis.
5. Photograph and/or video such petroglyphs on or near the solstice (where possible).
6. Publish findings.
7. Include such work in proposals for future video productions.

[ Editor's note: It was later determined that the sunrise azimuth for Jun 21, 2005, at Pantrepant East was 70d 51m magnetic, a very good match to Dietrich's aspect bearing for the petroglyph. Guy van Rentergem has noted that the aspect of the glyphs at Kempshot was also very close to 70 degrees magnetic. ]

JCO Articles and Advisories