The use of fingers and hands in mark-making in caves in the indigenous Caribbean

Author(s): Alice Samson; Jago Cooper

Year: 2016


The focus of this paper is on the actions of human fingers, hands, and bodies in the emergence and creation of the extraordinary subterranean cavescapes of Isla de Mona in the pre-Columbian and early colonial Caribbean. The interiors of around 30 of the island’s 200 caves have been extensively modified by scraping substances off, and applying substances to cave walls, leaving marks, extractive patches, meanders, and designs on hundreds of square metres of cave surfaces. These activities were carried out by indigenous individuals in the dark zones of cave systems, close to water sources, and predominantly with fingers and finger-sized tools.

The extent, location, and composition of the mark-making allows inferences to be drawn about the choreography of the activities, including body position, visual orientation, and gesture. Indigenous bodily techniques strongly contrast with the way Europeans behaved, marked, and moved around these same spaces. This research highlights the differences in indigenous and European traditions of physical engagement with the world, and the transformation of physical attitudes through colonisation.

Cite this Record

The use of fingers and hands in mark-making in caves in the indigenous Caribbean. Alice Samson, Jago Cooper. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 403198)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -90.747; min lat: 3.25 ; max long: -48.999; max lat: 27.683 ;