Many of Anguilla’s Arawak Amerindian sites are much larger than those on other islands in the region. For such a small island, this is remarkable. Recently, John Crock from the University of Pittsburgh, was awarded a doctorate for his work on Anguillian pre-Columbian archaeology and his theses that in Amerindians times Anguilla was a regionally significant ceremonial centre and a hub in a cultural, economic and political network. The evidence he assembled suggested that Amerindians who lived in Anguilla traded high status ceremonial artefacts, made here from imported raw materials, to communities in other Caribbean islands. Many pyramidical-shaped ‘zemi’ spirit power images, made from extremely hard stones, were produced in Anguilla and exported throughout the region, as well as axes made from imported green stones. Anguillian Amerindians also made wooden idols with shell inlays, bone snuff tubes, sophisticated shell jewellery and exquisite shell ‘masks’ – symbols of chiefly power and authority.
In 1985, the Government of Anguilla acquired The Fountain and the adjoining land for development as a show cave and National Park. Since then, numerous surveys and studies have firmly established the importance of this resource, which includes a large carved stalagmite representing ‘Jocahu’, the Arawak Indian creator deity. Dr C. Dubelaar, one of the foremost specialists in Amerindian petroglyphs of the Caribbean, states that Anguilla’s Fountain cave is “the best petroglyph cave in the whole area”.
The Fountain cavern is now awaiting formal inclusion as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites. Additional adjoined lands have been acquired which increases the park to almost fifteen acres, and now fully protects the cave itself and allowing space for proper development which will include a tunnel entrance, museum building, workshop Arawak garden and Marine Park, and visitor parking. A recently completed feasibility study, and a publication from the National Speleological Society of the United Stated, have endorsed the project, as does the Government of Anguilla.
Interestingly, most of Anguilla’s pre-Columbian sites were located behind beaches, on land with nice views and god breezes – locations which have since been selected for tourism development. Anguilla’s prime luxury Cap Juluca hotel, was named after ‘Juluca’ the rainbow deity of the Amerindians, and a petroglyph image from The Fountain has been used as the resort’s logo. An Amerindian shrine is planned for Cap Juluca as part of a future spa development project.
In time. The Amerindian heritage will no doubt become a significant ingredient of Anguilla’s tourism industry. The establishment of a national museum, The Fountain show cave and national park, and the Big Spring National Park, as well as the development of other Amerindian sites, will soon be available to the public. By then, and as archaeologists continue their work, we may discover enough additional information to fully understand Anguilla’s Amerindian heritage, and its significance to the region as a whole.