• The RiverWinds


Updated: Aug 18, 2021

Professor Ramos Holding an Agueybana Stone

A remnant of ancient stones - twenty of eight hundred - made its way halfway across the world, solving a 3500-year-old mystery. What did these stones whisper about the Pre-Columbian indigenous people of the island of Puerto Rico? After rigorous academic testing, anthropologist, historians, academics and millions of Puerto Ricans finally have scientific evidence that reveals the language of the stones.

Principal Chief Agueybana The Brave Memorial

Growing up in the mountains of Boriken (Puerto Rico), my grandfather told me about some very unique stones, which were part of our ancient Taino Indian history. These rare stones were in the care of one of our greatest Principal Chiefs, Cacike Agueybana, who, when Columbus stumbled across our Taino people in 1492, was the Principal Chief of my home island of Boriken (Puerto Rico).

Knowledge of these stones first came to light when a very sick Taino woman, who had tried everything from indigenous herbal remedies to ceremonies, lay on her deathbed. Compelled to tell a secret her family had carried for generations, she sent runners to find someone in the church who would listen. Why she chose the church, we’ll never know. But a monk named José María Nazario y Cancel came to her bedside. What this elder revealed to this monk changed the historical narrative of our precious island.

Monk: José María Nazario y Cancel

There, in her tiny bohio (thatched roof home) the monk interceded for the old woman’s healing. Then she told him her family secret, a secret that went back to the time of Cacike Agueybana, the Principal Chief of Boriken (the Taino Indian name for Puerto Rico, which means "The House of The Great and Valiant Lord). Her secret revealed where to find a hidden stash of stone figurines inscribed with strange symbols and carvings of an ancient people that some called the Hibaro, who had lived in the mountains of the island and still have descendants who call themselves by this name to this day.

Mountains of Guayanilla, Boriken (Puerto Rico)

Nazario had been educated at the University of Salamanca. His studies had included Ancient Languages, and he was amazed at what he saw. After comparing the writing on these stones to others from around the world, he came to his conclusion. This writing was a form of ancient Hebrew. Because of his religious background this fueled the possibility that a remnant of the lost tribes of Israel had settled on this island.

River in Guayanilla in the vicinity of the stones' hiding place

In 1893, Nazario wrote a short article titled “Escritura Aborigen de Carib” ("Aboriginal writing of the Carib"), in which he explained his interpretations of these carvings. After a thorough analysis of the stones and their inscriptions, he dismissed an Arawak Taino language origin, and by 1897 he concluded that the writings were more reminiscent of ancient Hebrew. Comparing this discovery with the spoken Taino language of his day, Nazario discerned words in the Taino Arawak language that were Semitic in origin and pronunciation. One example is the Taino name for the Supreme Spirit of Spirits, "Yah Yah". By comparison, the God of the monotheistic Hebrew culture is known by the abbreviated form of His Sacred Name "Yah."

Modern-day Taino people say that Cacique Agueybana kept this collection of inscribed stones safeguarded on the island and then buried them, fearing that the Spanish Conquistadors might find them. They remained hidden in the earth for over 400 years, until the dying Taino elder, Juana Morales, told Nazario about the stones and where to find them. 

It was well known on the island that Juana Morales was the last descendant of Principal Chief Agueybana. Her story is still told among the mountain people in the interior of the island who still identify as Hibaro, a word that in Taino means "People of the Mountains" but which bears a strange resemblance to the word "Hebrew". During the 19th and 20th century, Agueybana's Library had been exhibited to the public several times, and examined by expert scholars of high reputation who speculated that the writing was a form of Hebrew.

Many scholars agreed these could not be a forgery. Some even theorized that the writings predated the Mayan and Inca writing system. In 2012, interest gained traction and by 2019 it had piqued global curiosity in the Middle East. New tests were done using spectrometry and x-ray diffraction in Israel. This fascinating story came to the attention of the Zinman Institute of Archaeology at the University of Haifa. Dr. Iris Groman-Yaroslavsky did molecular analysis on twenty of these stones. The doctor’s results, based on the patina, revealed that these rocks were not forgeries. The results verified what many scholars had theorized. This added to mounting evidence about the origin of the writings.


Prof. Rodríguez Ramos, University of Puerto Rico Utuado “We are in the presence of an annotation system that has never been documented.”

The stones are inscribed in a language script previously unknown to linguists with expertise in Phoenician and Proto-Hebrew. Expert linguists deciphered the writing to be a mixture of Hebrew, with a little bit of Phoenician and an unknown script. Using carbon14 tests on the red paint found on the stones they have been dated to approximately 900 B.C., that is time when King David's son, Solomon, sent out ships from Tarsus throughout the world to collect resources like bronze and gold. Did some of those Hebrew sailors discover this island during their travels?

Will history be rewritten to include this fascinating new evidence? Were the people who inscribed these ancient stones part of the scattered tribes of Israel as recorded in the Bible? Did Hebrews share their language, traditions, and customs with the native island people? Is that why several Native American tribes from the Southeast and Caribbean islands share much of Israel’s spirituality found in the Torah? Only time, and more testing, will tell as this enigmatic hidden history of Boriken (Puerto Rico) unfolds.

The State of Israel has acknowledged a Hebrew presence in our ancient mountains in times long past, and we, the Good and Noble People (the Taino), send our warmest regards and blessings to our long lost cousins.

Or are we the long lost ones?

Dr. Iris Groman-Yaroslavsky and Prof. Reniel Rodríguez Ramos at the University of Haifa with the Puerto Rican artifacts. Photo courtesy of University of Haifa