One of the largest rock shelters excavated in the Lagoa Santa region. With a sheltered area of 1,300m. Lapa do Santo is an archaeological site located in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is an important site for the study of prehistoric human occupation in South America. The site contains numerous artifacts including human/fauna remains. Dating to both the late pleistocene and holocene. It provides valuable insights into the early history of human settlement in the region.
History of research and the Lagoa Santa region
Though it was a long time ago. Peter Lund (known for his discovery of the sabre tooth cat skeleton) begin hardcore exploring the area in the 1830s. In the region, the first human skeletons, in association with megafauna were found. Due to there coexistence. Lagoa Santa became the focus of many other 19th century scholars. There, they developed and published tons of information on the late pleistocene and early holocene. Including the skeletons and remains that were found. But, unfortunately, it had not been documented to more modernly recent scientific methods.
Co-ordinated more timely by local groups around São Paulo. The “Origins and Microevolution of Man in America: a Paleoanthropological Approach” aimed to overcome the situation by identifying and excavating new sites. Especially on the south side, near the shelters entrance. A bunch of new pieces were found. Including an individual, known as “Luzia”. She was dated to around 12,000 years ago. This, and many of the findings here. Have contributed significantly to our understanding of the peopling of the Americas, as well as, early human migrations in the area.
It is an environmentally protected area comprising 360 km 2 are of eastern central Brazil. The vegetation is dominated by savanna (cerrado) and semi-deciduous forest. Nearby rivers Mocambo, Samambaia, Jaguara and Gordura make up a tributary net that flows west to east to Velhas River, the main river in the area.
The annual mean temperature is 23 °C, with lower temperatures (11 °C) occurring between June and July and higher temperatures (35 °C) occurring between October and November. The average humidity is around 65% in the dry season, from May to September, and around 85% on the rainy summer season, from November to April.
Diet was ‘typical archaic’
Structured around staple carbohydrates like plants, and supplemented by small and mid sized fish, reptiles and animals. There diets were probably based on plants and supplemented by fauna. This is consistent with studies from central Brazil. Deer, peccaries. Also smaller reptiles, birds, rodents and fishes. And a wide variety of tubers and fruits such as pequi (Caryocar brasiliense), jatobá (Hymenaea sp.) and araticum (Annona crassiflora).
Given the climate and area. It is expected that humans would have had an diverse diet instead of focusing exclusively on meat.
Lithic tools were mostly small flakes and cores. Blades, arrow points, other tools and some pottery were also found and used. Crystal quartz was by far the dominant raw material, but silex, quartzite and silicified sandstone were also used. Depending on time period. Bone artifacts were found, and similar to many in the area.
Rock art, burials and graves
Suggesting existence of fertility rituals. The caves low relief rock art depicts phallic imagery and birth scenes.
26 human burials have also been uncovered. They have been classified in 6 mortuary patterns. That became known for evidence of be-heading, and de-spine-ing; with hands over the face. Dead corpses exposure to fires, and covered in red pigments. Cutting and chopping of remains. And, disartuculation of bones. It is some of the earliest forms of human mutilation known to mankind. Pretty disgusting.
Excavations at Lapa do Santo uncovered pieces and artifacts that shed light on technology, subsistence, and cultural practices of Brazils ancient inhabitants. The site continues to be an active area of research, and providing valuable information on our prehistoric past.
Neves, Walter A.; Hubbe, Mark; Piló, Luís Beethoven (2007-01-01). “Early Holocene human skeletal remains from Sumidouro Cave, Lagoa Santa, Brazil: History of discoveries, geological and chronological context, and comparative cranial morphology”. Journal of Human Evolution. 52 (1): 16–30. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2006.07.012 (https://doi.org/10.1016%2Fj.jhevol.2006.07.012). ISSN 0047-2484 (https://www.worldcat.org/issn/0047-2484). PMID 16996575 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16996575).
Da-Gloria, Pedro; Neves, Walter A.; Hubbe, Mark, eds. (2017). Archaeological and Paleontological Research in Lagoa Santa. doi:10.1007/978-3-319-57466-0 (https://doi.org/10.1 007%2F978-3-319-57466-0). ISBN 978-3-319-57465-3.
“Oldest Decapitated Head in New World Found in ‘Vogue’ Pose” (https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/phenomena/2015/09/23/oldest-decapitated-head-in-new-world-found-in-vogue-pose/). 2015-09-23. Retrieved 2018-10-03.
Strauss, André (2016). “Os padrões de sepultamento do sítio arqueológico Lapa do Santo(Holoceno Inicial, Brasil)” (https://doi.org/10.1590%2F1981.81222016000100013). Boletim do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Ciências Humanas. 11 (1): 243–276.doi:10.1590/1981.81222016000100013 (https://doi.org/10.1590%2F1981.81222016000100013). ISSN 1981-8122 (https://www.worldcat.org/issn/1981-8122).
Pugliese Junior, Francisco Antonio (2008-02-28). Os líticos de Lagoa Santa: um estudo sobre organização tecnológica de caçadores-coletores do Brasil Central (http://www.teses.usp.br/teses/disponiveis/71/71131/tde-10042008-110501/pt-br.php) (Thesis) (in Brazilian Portuguese). Universidade de Sao Paulo Sistema Integrado de Bibliotecas – SIBiUSP. doi:10.11606/D.71.2008.tde-10042008-110501 (https://doi.org/10.11606%2FD.71.2008.tde-10042008-110501).
Neves, Walter A.; Araujo, Astolfo G. M.; Bernardo, Danilo V.; Kipnis, Renato; Feathers, James K. (2012-02-22). “Rock Art at the Pleistocene/Holocene Boundary in Eastern South America” (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3284556). PLOS ONE. 7 (2): e32228.Bibcode:2012PLoSO…732228N (https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2012PLoSO…732228N).doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0032228 (https://doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0032228). ISSN 1932-6203 (https://www.worldcat.org/issn/1932-6203). PMC 3284556 (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3284556). PMID 22384187 (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22384187).