Representation of Zemi face artifact, David Kiphuth, 2006 (similar specimens have been found on Hassel Island)

Archaeological research has proven the existence of early Caribbean Indian cultures on Hassel Island.  One site has been identified on the southeastern shore, as well as the discovery of a Zemi artifact on the shoreline.   This site is characteristic of the Saladoid culture which originated in the Orinoco River Basin in what is now Venezuela.  These Indians began migrating northward in approximately 500BCE.  They were accomplished pottery makers and horticulturalists.  They have been known as Tainos, Arawaks and Caribes.  By the middle of the 16th century, those inhabiting the Virgin Islands had disappeared, either fleeing the Spanish or being enslaved.  When Captain John Smith visited St. Thomas in 1607 on the voyage to found Jamestown, there is no mention in his diary of any native inhabitants.

Explore a detailed timeline of human settlement and cultural upheaval on St. Thomas’ neighbor, St. John, on the NPS website.

Image Credit: Representation of Zemi face artifact found on Hassel Island, illustration by David Kiphuth, 2006