Roches Gravées: The story
Parc Archéologique des Roches Gravées is an historical monument in Trois-Rivières township (Basse-Terre Island). This archaeological site is the evidence of the Arawaks’ settlement in Guadeloupe Archipelago at some point.
First of all, here is a little background of the Arawaks. Between 300 and 700 A.D, Guadeloupe Archipelago was first inhabited by indigenous Taino also called Arawaks. This civilised and peaceful tribe was living in harmony with the nature. Therefore, their daily activities consisted of farming, fishing and hunting. Also, Art was a huge part in the Arawaks everyday lives. As a matter of fact, they were using art such as pottery, rock engraving or weaving to express their spiritual beliefs.
Roches Gravées is a rich cultural heritage left by Guadeloupe Archipelago’s first inhabitants. There are more than 200 engravings spread over 22 stones. As a result, the archaeological site gathers more than 50% of the reported petroglyph sites in the Lesser Antilles.
A series of petroglyphs
Petroglyphs or rock engravings are remarkable methods to produce rock art. Prehistoric people including the Arawaks were abrading, grinding, incising, scratching and carving different patterns into an exposed rock surface.
Roches Gravées features multiple petroglyphs of faces, human bodies, animals and geometrical shapes. Furthermore, some overlapping faces are similar to totems.
Sunny days are perfect to clearly see the figures, especially in the morning. Indeed, because the petroglyphs are fading over time, the sunlight is really helpful to look at every details.
Roches Gravées: historical monument
Roches Gravées is the biggest archaeological site in the West Indies and belongs to the General Council. In 1974, the ministry of culture has classified Roches Gravées as a historical monument. The following year, it has been opened to the public.
In 1981, la Société d’Histoire of Guadeloupe Archipelago handed over Roches Gravées to the General Council. Right now, the General Council is fully responsible for the site maintenance.
The site is located in a stunning garden of lush vegetation. You will be able to discover several Caribbean plants’ species . Here is a list of some of them:
- Annatto tree
- Breadfruit tree
- Cacao tree
- Calabash tree
- Castor oil plant
- Clove tree
- Latanier palm
- Ravelana (Traveller’s tree)
- Shortleaf fig
- Sugar cane
- Taro leaves
- White silk-cotton tree
- Yellow mombin
Some of the species, for instance the annatto tree, calabash tree, cassava and vetivergrass were part of the Arawaks everyday lives. The other ones such as the sugar cane or the cacao tree have been imported later on.
The combination of the various petroglyphs and the botanical garden are making Roches Gravées such an incredible site to visit.
A 45-minute tour is available and well worth it. During the guided tour, you will learn much more about the first inhabitants of Guadeloupe Archipelago. The tour also includes multiple detailed explanations of the flora which is really helpful.
Admission and guided tours are completely free. Furthermore, there are several informative posters at the reception area, that are worth reading through.
To sum up, Roches Gravées is an interesting testimony of the first inhabitants settlement in Guadeloupe Archipelago. When visiting the park, you can tell that the Arawaks were definitely living their best but simple lives. When going to Basse-Terre Island, don’t forget to head to this archaeological park, especially if you want to learn more about the Arawaks.
Here is the Parc Archéologique des Roches Gravées address:
Quartier Bord de Mer
Phone number: 0590 92 91 88
Most importantly, the site is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9am to 5pm.
Additionally, here are the guided tours times: 9am/ 10am/ 11am/ 2pm/ 3pm and 4pm.