Indigenous Peoples

A stone outcropping with carved Taino symbols representing faces with animal features, dots, and swirled symbols
Taino petroglyph carvings along the Reef Bay Trail show faces with animal features and other symbols central to Taino culture.


Humans first arrived in the Virgin Islands from South America about 2500 to 3000 years ago and settled the island about 1300 to 2500 years ago. The oldest known archeological site found on St. John is near the beach at Lameshur Bay.

Today, we know very little about the earliest human inhabitants of the Virgin Islands. These early explorers of the islands were nomadic hunter-gatherers. They left behind no evidence of agriculture or villages, and likely lived in caves or out in the open.

Around 1000 to 1300 years ago, the Virgin Islands experienced a population boom. We know of these peoples as the Taino. In this wave of immigration, the Taino people established villages at Cinnamon Bay, Coral Bay, Caneel Bay, and Lameshur Bay. The society of the Taino people was more complex than those that had come to the region before them. The Taino built communal villages, used stone tools, and grew cotton with which they made clothing and hammocks.

Taino archeological sites provide many clues to how the Taino people organized their society. The Taino people developed farming methods that required very little time and effort to maintain, allowing ample free time. In this free time, the they developed complex religious ceremonies and games of skill, like Batu. Batu is a ball game played on a small court. Two teams attempt to drive the ball past the other team's backline without using their hands.

Visitors can explore sites of Taino culture at Cinnamon Bay and at the Petroglyph carvings along Reef Bay Trail. Discover more at our archeology page.

Last updated: January 17, 2022

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