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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, July 20, 2024
HomeNewsArchivesDIG'S ANIMAL REMAINS ARE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE

DIG'S ANIMAL REMAINS ARE PIECES OF THE PUZZLE

Ancient cultural artifacts are just one part of the evidence of a pre-Colombian Virgin Islands that have been uncovered by archaeologist Ken Wild and those who have worked with him over the years excavating at Cinnamon Bay.
The dig workers also have found the remains of extinct animals including a fresh-water pond turtle, snakes and "a few birds that don't exist anymore," Wild says.
Animals figured heavily in the culture of St. John's Taino aboriginals, he says. Dogs were considered the guardians to the land of the dead. Owls were believed to bring death, and owl bones were unearthed at the Cinnamon Bay site of what Wild now believes to be a Taino caney, or temple.
But the most interesting animal of all may be the fruit bat.
During a tour of the excavation site, Wild displays a zemi, a small three-pointed stone carving that he says was found between one and two feet down in the dig. The researchers theorize that the figure was used in Taino temple rituals around 1000 A.D.
The little bald creature with the compact, upturned snout is believed to have been the envoy between the material and spiritual worlds who flew through the night and ate guavaberries.
Wild say he thinks the fruit bat deity was central to Taino belief until later centuries, when its role was taken over by the tribal chief.
As evidence of that change in belief, he produces another zemi, this one recovered at a depth of less than a foot. This figure has a carved design on its head which Wild believes to be a headdress.
According to 15th Century Spanish records, he says, when European explorers encountered the Tainos, the only member of the community wearing a headdress was the tribal chief.

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