The various groups of people who first inhabited the Virgin Islands had no written system of communication. However, we can learn directly about their lifeways and beliefs through the surviving elements of their material culture, which include settlement sites, pottery, stoneware, food remains and various kinds of carvings, all of which comprise the archaeological record of the past.
Petroglyphs: Expressive rock carvings, such as those found at Reef Bay, St. John, and documented in this 1920s photograph, are found at several locations throughout the Virgin Islands. They reveal connections to other New World cultures and societies.
Swallow Stick: Excavated at Magens Bay in 1917 by Captain Theodore De Booy, this unique ceremonial object has been attributed to the Taino people who are believed to have inhabited St. Thomas at the time of Columbus. Measuring 8 and 1/4 inches in length, it was fabricated from the rib of a manatee or sea cow, with seashells for eyes, and mother of pearl inlays for teeth. Used to purify priests by inducing vomiting, this tool speaks to us of the belief systems and craftsmanship of the original inhabitants.