It was in the Northeastern region of Brazil, more specifically in the State of Piauí, at the Serra da Capivara National Park, where the oldest traces of human presence in the Americas were found. The artifacts and cave paintings discovered there date back to more than 100000 years, when its first inhabitants were still living in caves.
However, the region has been occupied for much longer. Millions of years before humans, the greatest beings which have ever inhabited the planet, dinosaurs, could be seen there. Their presence left marks that have been visited and observed by tourists from all over the world.
In this tour, you will follow the footsteps of our ancestors and embark on an adventure through some of the most important archaeological sites and museums of the Brazilian Northeast.
It is a three-day tour. However, as the distances between the cities are great, the ideal is to save 5 days for the trip: one for each destination and one for each day of traveling between them.
At the Ingá Archaeological Site, 45 km from Campina Grande, the famous Pedra do Ingá (Ingá Stone) is located. Also known as "Itacoatiara", colored stone, in Tupi-Guarani, it is an impressive rock that is 24m wide and almost 4m high,in which images of animals, human beings and even the Orion constellation have been carved. What do these drawings mean? No one knows for sure. There are archaeologists who argue that the stone is of Phoenician origin. Others believe it to be the work of aliens.
In the same archaeological complex is the Natural History Museum, with fossilized skeletons which are more than 100 million years old, as well as polished stone tools, artifacts and many explanations on the materials found there.
Another museum that is worth a visit, despite having no relation to archaeology, is the Museum of Folk Art of Paraíba. Designed by Oscar Niemeyer, it is also known as Museu dos Três Pandeiros (Three Pandeiros Museum), after its three buildings in the shape of pandeiros (Brazilian hand frame drum), each one housing a different kind of art: music, cordel literature (typical of the Northeast of Brazil) and crafts. The museum has thousands of exhibits and high technology structure, with audio and video resources that help visitors to immerse themselves in the local culture.
The adventure continues through Vale dos Mestres, in Canindé de São Francisco, 450 km from Campina Grande, an almost lost paradise in the alto sertão (one of the sub-regions of the Northeast of Brazil) of Sergipe, with stunning canyons, rivers which are excellent for swimming and lots of natural beauty.
Its best known trail has 2km in length and passes through archaeological sites with rock carvings that are more than 3000 years old, which resemble animals and human beings. The typical vegetation of caatinga (type of desert vegetation), with its xique-xiques, mandacarus (types of plant) and large lizards from the genus Tropidurus, helps create an atmosphere of ancient times.
The Xingó Archaeology Museum, of the Federal University of Sergipe, complements the tour. There, you can learn more about the region's archaeological heritage. In its collection, there are ancient artifacts and tools, animal and human bones, various fossils and many explanations on the origin of men and on the occupation of the place.
Just over 700 km from Canindé de São Francisco is the last destination of this tour, which is also the most impressive. Located in São Raimundo Nonato, Piauí, the Serra da Capivara National Park is one of the most important archaeological sites on the planet. In its more than 100000 hectares, there are numerous trails and paths that lead to a tour of prehistoric times.
There, the largest collection of rock paintings on the planet is located. It consists of approximately 30000 images representing human beings and animals in various scenes, scattered around the 1,354 archaeological sites. The oldest date from 12000 years ago and are very well preserved, because they remain protected from the rain and sun. For its importance, the Park was included in Unesco’s World Heritage list.
Next to the entrance to the Park is Fundação Museu do Homem Americano, which tells the story of the occupation of the Americas by men. It also displays some of the many archaeological treasures found there, like ancient fragments of bonfires and ceramics, and funerary urns and skeletons.
Understanding our past is understanding who we are and how we got here. And the best thing is that to go on this archaeological trip you don't even need a time machine. All you need is to explore the secrets hidden in Brazil.