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In Photos: Cave Art from Mona Island

Cave formations

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

A sample was taken of the water dripping from the ceiling so researchers could conduct a chemical analysis.

Deciphering symbols

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

Many of the symbols carved into the cave walls remain undetermined, and other cultural records that may have been destroyed by the Spanish are needed to decipher them.

Feather headdress

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

Much of the artwork was intended to depict life on Mona Island — here's a depiction of a person wearing a feather headdress.

Tales of the sun and moon

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

The Taíno people believed that the sun and moon emerged from the ground, so they traveled deep into caves and worked by torchlight in these spiritual places.

Cave craft

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

While some of the art (left) was rubbed into the outer surface to create negative images, other sections (right) were deliberately wiped away.

Finger-sized tools

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

It's unclear exactly how the Mona rubbed negative images like this into the cave walls, but they likely used their fingers or finger-sized tools.

Cave paints

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

The scientists used reflected light microscopy to analyze cross sections of paints found in the caves in hopes of learning how it was made.

Dark figures

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

While charcoal was used as a secondary material next to the paint mixtures, some of the drawings were drawn using the charcoal from torches.

Exploring cave art

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

The scientists were surprised to learn how old the artwork is. Previously, Mona Island's cave art was assumed to be from later in history because of how well-preserved it is.

Tunnels and caverns

(Image credit: Journal of Archaeological Science)

One of the archaeologists who explored Mona Island's caves monitoring the water that likely caused speleothems throughout the tunnels and caverns.