Reef Bay
Petroglyph Trail
Part 2
Were the petroglyphs carved by Indians from Mesoamerica? One historian thinks so.

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McCartor says the great Teotihuacan empire had trading posts up to 600 miles away from their base outside Mexico City. He theorizes that they may have set up an outpost on St. John because of its varieties of rock and mined here for greenstone, gold and other precious metals.

St. John, he says, is also at the apex of a possible trading route from South America to Mesoamerica -- the pre-Spanish civilization that extended from Mexico to Central America. McCartor points out that the ancient ball court on nearby St. Croix is clearly another remnant of that culture.

McCartor, with a graying beard and glasses and looking every bit the professorial part, is convinced that it was visitors from Teotihuacan who were responsible for the artwork at the petroglyph pool.

When he took me to the pool to show me his proof, he guided me down a precarious shortcut that involved lowering ourselves down a rope fastened to a telephone pole. He'd warned me he is an expert on shortcuts -- especially the ones not to try. He once disappeared for 2 days in the thick forest of the Virgin Islands National Park: a modern day record for accidental wandering around here.

"While I was waiting to be rescued, the National Park Service went hunting for me in all the bars," grumbles McCartor, who still bristles about the 1994 incident. "I got lost only because I tried a shortcut one of their people told me about. Turns out it didn't exist."

McCartor handed me a blowup of a photo he took at the Petroglyph Pool. The picture shows what thousands see each year when hiking an offshoot of the popular Reef Bay Trail and reach the basin: a seemingly random collection of rock carvings just above the waterline.

But when I turned the photo on its side, a strange figure emerged from the reflection of the petroglyphs in the water.

Once I knew what to look for, I sat back in a crude rock chair a few yards from the pool and there he was in person: the enigmatic fat man.

McCartor is not the first to recognize the pool has a remarkable mirror image. When he placed a image of the Fat God (from Michael D. Coe's The Maya) next to his own photo from St. John, the similarity was astounding.

Another print showing a hefty holy man is in the Royal Danish Library, Copenhagen, and reproduced in Conquest of Eden by Michael Paiewonsky. The book identifies the figure as an Arawak god.

Another possible connection with Teotihuacan is the peculiar petroglyph at the same pool, near the foot of the "Fat God." This one has googly eyes and 3 threads of droplets drooling from its mouth. McCartor believes they are drops of rain and that the face belongs to Tlaloc, the Mexican rain god.

But are the possible connections between the pool's stone faces and the god's of relatively far-off civilizations enough to re-write history? Not yet.

McCartor visits St. John several times a year searching for ruins to confirm his theory. "The chances of finding any buildings are remote," he admits. "They'd be several thousand years old."

But what keeps McCartor going is the knowledge that discovering them would set off perhaps the biggest scientific explosion since the volcanic eruption that formed St. John.

Petroglyph Trail Part 1

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