Brazilian Archeology

By Museu Nacional

Rare stone sculpture in human formMuseu Nacional

SAMBAQUIS

Along the narrow and cut out shoreline of the south-central coast of Brazil, in the estuary, rich in fish, mollusks and crustaceans, fishing and gathering populations lived between 8 thousand years ago and the beginning of the Christian Era. Their traces can be seen in large hills made out of sand, earth, and shells — the so-called sambaquis — where food waste, tools, weapons, adornments and the burials of those who lived there can be found. These hills, with variable heights, have high visibility and stand out in the coastal landscape. CONTINUE ---►

Bird-shaped zoolithsMuseu Nacional

---►Although they exist from Rio Grande do Sul all the way to Bahia, it is in the state of Santa Catarina that the sambaquis are the most numerous. There, one can find sambaquis that reach up to 35 meters of height, which demonstrates that they must have occurred in conditions that were extremely favorable to its builders' way of life. Although their everyday material culture use was very simple, in the central coast these groups produced very elaborated ceremonial objects of stone and bone, with aesthetic refinement and artistic sophistication: the so-called zoolites.

Straw basketMuseu Nacional

Straw basket

This basket was internally coated with resin, only partially conserved. It is a rare piece, due to the difficulty of preserving organic materials in tropical climates. It belongs to the Balbino de Freitas Collection and was collected in a non-identified sambaqui in the central coast of Brazil.

Fish-shaped flat zooliteMuseu Nacional

Zoolite in the shape of a catfish

The piece presents a small slump situated almost always in the ventral region of the represented animals, which is assumed to have been intended for the processing of substances capable of producing sensorial stimuli, used in ceremonies and rites.

Fish-shaped zooliteMuseu Nacional

Zoolite in the shape of a fish

The piece presents a small slump situated almost always in the ventral region of the represented animals, which is assumed to have been intended to the processing of substances capable of producing sensorial stimuli, used in ceremonies and rites.

Projectile TipMuseu Nacional

OTHER CULTURES

Ax BladesMuseu Nacional

Axe Blades

The semilunar axes were produced by horticultural groups in the Brazilian prehistory, in different raw material, for ceremonial purposes.

Projectile TipMuseu Nacional

Projectile Tip

Projectile tips with peduncle and fins made of flint and hyaline quartz, fabricated and utilized by hunter-gatherer groups of Brazilian prehistory.

Female phallus statuetteMuseu Nacional

MARAJOARA CULTURE

The Marajoara culture was the one that reached the highest level of social complexity in Brazilian prehistory. This complexity is also expressed in its ceramics production, technically elaborated, characterized by a great diversity of forms and decorated with diligence. The pieces exhibited here are related to ceremonial practices. Some were found in funerary contexts, others were probably used in rites of passage. CONTINUE ---►

Marajoara globular beakerMuseu Nacional

---► The Marajoara iconography — strongly centered on the human figure and on the representation of tropical forest animals surrounded by symbolic meanings — composes an intricate system of visual communication that is made up of symmetries, paired elements, rhythmic repetitions and binary oppositions to reaffirm, transmit, and perpetuate a particular vision of the world.

UrnMuseu Nacional

Urn

Exceptional piece for its dimensions, this ceremonial urn presents a surface totally covered by plastic decoration made with a 272 excision technique, in geometric motifs and representations of hybrid beings that mix anthropomorphic and zoomorphic characteristics.

Funeral urnMuseu Nacional

Funerary Art

With red painting over a white background, a body profusely decorated by the technique of excision is presented, with variations around the stylized human figure and geometric motifs. Elaborate funerary urns such as this one, in general containing objects of prestige in their interior, were probably intended towards individuals of distinguished social status in the Marajoara society.

Anthropomorphic Vase MarajoaraMuseu Nacional

Anthropomorphic Vase

In this piece of ceremonial use the theme of the two serpents — recurrent in Marajoara iconography, perhaps related to some myth — appears in a relief, conforming a human face. The two heads represent the eyes. Their bodies compose the typical V-shaped eyebrows. A button in the junction of the two tails configures the nose. The bulge, bathed in white, is decorated with incisive geometric forms.

ContainerMuseu Nacional

Container

Ceremonial bowl decorated internally with a polychromatic painting, in red and white over a white background, with geometric motifs and stylized representations of the human figure. The non painted border, received its decoration in relief, with representations of serpents and human faces displayed alternately. The back of the piece presents an exuberant plastic decoration with geometric motifs made with the technique of excision.

Hollow phallus statuetteMuseu Nacional

Hollow statuette in the shape of a phallus

This ceremonial piece appears to have been broken on purpose — which was a frequent practice in the Marajoara society — maybe to deter its reutilization. With scorpion-shaped eyes, a recurrent attribute in anthropomorphic figures associated with shamans, high and waxed foreheads, with a head shape that suggests a cranial deformation, the statue was decorated with facial and body painting in red geometric motifs over a white background. The Marajoara iconography, as attested by the characteristics of this piece, indicate that women occupied positions of elevated status, which in other cultures are generally reserved to men.

Female pubic coversMuseu Nacional

Loincloths

Painted in red and black over a white background, these female sex covers were modeled individually, following the pubic anatomy of their bearers. Geometric patterns, many of which corresponded to stylized representations of the human figure, filled their four decorative fields, which in some exemplars are reduced to only three. While the upper band varies little, the following as well as the lower one present higher variability. The bigger, central field, is never repeated. In each of the extremities are presented orifices for tying, many of them worn down from use.

Small anthropomorphic containerMuseu Nacional

Small anthropomorphic recipient

Decorated with geometric forms made with an excision technique, this piece, of ceremonial use, probably served for the ingestion or inhalation of substances capable of producing strong sensorial stimuli, used in communal rituals.

Anthropomorphic phallusMuseu Nacional

Anthropomorphic piece in the shape of a phallus

The body and the head, which presents the typical T-shaped eyebrows, were decorated with geometric motifs made with the technique of excision.

Anthropomorphic VaseMuseu Nacional

SANTARÉM CULTURE

In the region of the lower Tapajós river, a culture caller Santarém flourished, notable for the production of ceramics with a very peculiar style, based on the use of modeling techniques, incision, dotted lines and application. Described since the 19th Century by naturalists and travelers who went through the area, their forms reveal elaborated compositions, containing a profusion of appendices of tropical rainforest animals, which constitute true sculptures conceived in a naturalist manner. CONTINUE ---►

Female Anthropomorphic Statuette HeadMuseu Nacional

—►Anthropomorphic statuettes also stand out due to the naturalism in the representation of men and women, bearing attributes that allow the identification of emblems of prestige and social positions. Actually, little is known about this culture, since systematic archeological excavations only began to be developed in the last years. The existent pieces in museums come, in large part, from collections and excavations realized without control in its biggest archeological site, where today is established the city of Santarém, which impedes the comprehension of its contexts. Even so, they constitute an important source of knowledge about the complex society that produced them, in how much they bear testimony of their social practices, ways of constructing the body, and cosmological conceptions.

Anthropomorphic VaseMuseu Nacional

Anthropomorphic Vase

Ceremonial Vase that represents a seated female figure, with inflected legs, totally covered by body paint with geometric motifs in black and red over a white background.

Female Anthropomorphic StatuetteMuseu Nacional

Anthropomorphic female statuette

Exceptional piece for its dimensions, in dealing with a female representation, which in general is of smaller size. The lower members were hyper dimensioned, while the upper ones present themselves atrophied. With eyes closed in the form of coffee beans, and a mouth in a pouting expression, frequent in other anthropomorphic representations of this culture, the figure bears several attributes: a genital cover-up in the form of a loincloth, pierced lobes, wreath in combed hair, adornment on the arms and traces of red and black body paint, which permit to suppose a distinguished social status. There are circular orifices in different points of the body: nostrils, ears, armpits, vagina, and soles of the feet. A restored piece, with absent parts.

Anthropomorphic female statuette

Exceptional piece for its dimensions, in dealing with a female representation, which in general is of smaller size. The lower members were hyper dimensioned, while the upper ones present themselves atrophied. With eyes closed in the form of coffee beans, and a mouth in a pouting expression, frequent in other anthropomorphic representations of this culture, the figure bears several attributes: a genital cover-up in the form of a loincloth, pierced lobes, wreath in combed hair, adornment on the arms and traces of red and black body paint, which permit to suppose a distinguished social status. There are circular orifices in different points of the body: nostrils, ears, armpits, vagina, and soles of the feet. A restored piece, with absent parts.

Anthropomorphic vase representing a seated manMuseu Nacional

Anthropomorphic vase representing a seated man

The body posture, the pierced lobes, and other ornaments suggest that this individual who presents atrophied members, especially the lower ones, had a distinguished social position. Restored piece, with fractured and absent phallus.

Female Anthropomorphic Statuette HeadMuseu Nacional

Head of anthropomorphic female statuette

With eyes closed in the shape of coffee beans, typical of the Santarém culture, this head, which was detached from its body, presents several attributes: besides ear adornments, its hair was carefully combed and it bears an elaborate headwear, made up of a nape-cover and wreath adorned with three bat heads on each side. Presents circular orifices in the nostrils and ears.

VaseMuseu Nacional

VASE

Ceremonial vase decorated with geometric incisions and reliefs, with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures displayed alternately.

Muiraquitã, frog sculptureMuseu Nacional

Muiraquitã

Green stone
Óbidos, Pará.

The muiraquitãs — common in the shape of frogs and, more rarely, of birds, fish, and other animals — were fabricated almost always in green stones, with jadeites, nephrites, and amazonites.
Used as pendants, they also appear adorning female headset in ceramic statuettes of Santarém. Surrounded by legends, the muiraquitãs are, long-standing, considered powerful amulets against all types of curses. It seems that, Santarém was its production center, although it had a considerable dispersion of pieces of this type, maybe as a consequence of extensive trade and ideological dissemination. These networks reached the Caribbean region where artifacts produced in Santarém can be found.

Zoomorphic Funeral UrnMuseu Nacional

MARACÁ CULTURE

In the interior of caves and under-rock shelters in the region of the Maracá river, several cemeteries that kept numerous funerary urns in very visible places were found. Causing impact and inspiring respect to those who entered these spaces, which were destined towards the dead, the urns attest a vigorous cult to ancestors that was practiced in this culture. They reproduce male and female human figures in hieratic positions — seated over benches in the shape of quadruped animals — demonstrating that they were burials of individuals of high status. The head, in the shape of truncated cone, corresponds to the lid of the urn, fixated on the cylindrical body through tying orifices. One of its most notable characteristic is the extroverted and antinatural position of the elbows. Facial and body paintings in geometric patterns in the colors of white, yellow, red, and black, as well as adornments on the head and on the members, expressed the social identity of the dead.

Anthropomorphic Funeral UrnMuseu Nacional

Anthropomorphic funerary urn
The piece hereby presented is one of the smallest ever found. Although the dimensions of such urns are variable, oscillating between 20 and 85 cm of height, this one falls much below the average size.

Credits: Story

DIRECTOR
Alexander Wilhelm Armin Kellner

VICE DIRECTOR
Cristiana Silveira Serejo

ADJUNCT DIRECTORS
Wagner William Martins
Lygia Dolores Ribeiro de Santiago Fernandes
Luiz Fernando Duarte

CREATION/EXECUTION TEAM
Antonio Ricardo Pereira de Andrade
Valéria Maria Fonseca de Lima
Marci Fileti Martins
Lydia Maria Gomes da Silva
Lorrana Gonçalves de Alcântara
Déborah Rezende Gouvêa
Christina Aparecida de Lélis

PHOTOGRAPHY
Rômulo Fialdini
Valentino Fialdini

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps