Last updated: 01:45 PM ET, Thu June 02 2016

Ancient Petroglyphs Discovered On Montserrat

Destination & Tourism | Brian Major | June 02, 2016

Ancient Petroglyphs Discovered On Montserrat

PHOTO: Pre-historic petroglyphs have been found on Monserrat, previously best known for the still-active Soufriere Hills volcano. (Photo via Facebook)

The tiny Caribbean island of Montserrat maintains a rare distinction as the site of the still-active Soufriere Hills volcano, which buried the former capital of Plymouth in hundreds of feet of volcanic and pyroclastic flows.

This month, members of the Montserrat National Trust (MNT) uncovered another rare aspect on the small island nation: ancient petroglyphs likely drawn thousands of years ago by Montserrat’s original Amerindian residents.

The Montserrat petroglyphs - drawings on mountain and cave walls and rocks by members of prehistoric civilizations – were found in late May along the island’s Soldier Ghaut trail according to a post on the MNT’s Facebook page. That same month, the MNT hosted a tour of the site with members and a visiting archaeologists and students.

While petroglyphs have been discovered in other Caribbean nations including Aruba, Belize and Puerto Rico, among others, none had previously been found on Montserrat. Amerindian groups are thought to have first arrived in the Caribbean between 6000 and 4000 B.C., roughly 8,000 years ago.

READ MORE: Montserrat’s Unique Attraction

Posters to the MNT Facebook page have already called for the site to be protected as it is expected to quickly emerge as a tourist attraction. MNT was established by the island’s government in February 1970 with the goal of “preserving and conserving the cultural, historic and archaeological heritage” of Montserrat.

The organization hosts and facilitates archaeological surveys conducted by experts from U.S.-based universities including Brown University, Columbia University and Wayne State University. MNT also partners with the universities to host workshops with the archaeological teams and students from the Montserrat Secondary School.

Ironically, Montserrat’s disastrous July 18, 1995 eruption, which leveled the 40 square-mile island’s southern half, including Plymouth’s historic Georgian-era structures and the main seaport, has turned the still-buried “Exclusion Zone” into its main visitor draw.

The restricted Exclusion Zone was recently opened to guided visitor tours, allowing travelers to stroll through the streets, homes, buildings and businesses that were buried in 39 feet of pyroclastic mud and ash.

Government and tourism officials on the island are working to re-establish Montserrat’s previous popularity with international travelers. Last year the destination hosted 8,944 overnight visitors, last among the 24 destinations tracked by the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). This summer Windstar Cruises launched a Caribbean itinerary aboard 208-passenger Star Legend that features weekly calls in Little Bay, Montserrat.

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