History & Culture

Petroglyphs of Reef Bay

Virgin Islands National Park encompasses over two-thirds the island of St. John, and almost all of Hassel Island. Much of the prehistoric past and over a hundred historic sites comprise one the most comprehensive and undisturbed Caribbean landscapes.

Significant prehistoric sites are present on almost every beach and in every bay within the park. These archeological sites date from as early as 840 BC to the arrival of Columbus in 1493. First came the Archaic Period sites of the early nomadic hunter-gatherers, followed by chiefdom villages, then complex ceremonial sites. Each had its own burial ground. These sites have given us a greater understanding of the region’s prehistory, along with the religious and social development of the Taino people who greeted Columbus. We now know more about the ancient Caribbean rock carvings, why they were carved in specific areas — such as those found at Reef Bay — their purpose, religious meaning and how they reflected cultural development.

After Columbus’ arrival, the Virgin Islands became one of the first cultural melting pots, made up of people from around the world. Northern European powers competed for strategic and economic control. They brought enslaved workers from Africa to build plantation estates with great houses,warehouses, windmills, and factories. In addition to hundreds of architectural remains of these plantations, there are at least two-thousand sites where the houses (huts) and graveyards of the enslaved workers exist.

Last updated: January 14, 2022

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1300 Cruz Bay Creek
St. John , VI 00830


340 776-6201 x238
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