Ship Graffiti on the Islands of the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos and Puerto Rico: A Comparative Analysis

Michael J. Lace, Nancy A. Albury, Alice V.M. Samson, Jago Cooper, Reniel Rodríguez Ramos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Across the Caribbean and adjacent regions, systematic inventories of historical ship graffiti remain markedly incomplete. Previous studies had identified several islands in the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos associated with ship graffiti primarily within colonial period structures. We expanded the range of these preliminary inventories, recording a diverse array of ship graffiti specific to plantation era structures across seven islands in the Bahamian Archipelago, as well as the sole cave site known to harbor such imagery. Examples were also associated with Spanish colonial era fortifications in Old San Juan and found within a set of nine of the numerous caves found on Isla de Mona and two caves on the Puerto Rican mainland. Many of the nautical images encountered were previously unrecorded as they have only recently been revealed through systematic exploration and detailed site surveys, demonstrating that the phenomenon is regionally more widespread and complex than previously known. In this interregional study of ship graffiti in the Puerto Rican and Bahamian Archipelagos, we examine image distribution patterns, techniques, preservation status and historical context unique to each area, contrasting the respective Euro-colonial cultural arcs reflected in these distinctive nautical iconographies. Although each act of mark-making is historically and contextually unique, we consider what this imagery has in common, namely that the majority were produced under conditions of slavery, confinement, and/or hard labor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-271
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of Maritime Archaeology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019


  • Bahamian plantations
  • Guano caves
  • Isla de Mona
  • Ship graffiti

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