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A Journey to a New Land

First people
Post secondary Level Resources

Pedra Furada

This large sandstone rockshelter located in the thorn forest of northeastern Brazil has been at the centre of a controversy for many years. Site investigators found stone tools and charcoal hearths at the earliest levels, and radiocarbon dates suggested the site may have been occupied as early as 30,000 – 40,000 years BP.

Some archaeologists have challenged the evidence from this site. Although the radiocarbon dating appears to have produced reliable dates, the charcoal that was used for dating may have been the product of a brush fire or other natural event, rather than the result of human activity. So although the charcoal itself may be 40,000 years old, people were not necessarily present at the time the charcoal was deposited.

The stone tools from the early levels have also been a point of concern. The characterization of some of the stones as artifacts has been challenged on the basis that natural fragmentation caused by falling rock could have resulted in stones that look like intentionally-flaked tools. The site is located at the base of a rock fall, and these 'tools' are made from the same materials as the rocks that fall from the cliff face.

The later levels of the Pedra Furada site, dating to about 10,400 years BP, contained well defined hearths, chert and quartzite artifacts, and abundant rock art.

Further Reading:

Guidon, N. and G. Delibrias
1986 Carbon-14 dates point to man in the Americas 32,000 years ago. Nature 321: 769 - 71.

Meltzer, David J., James M. Adovasio, and Tom D. Dillehay
1994. On a Pleistocene Human Occupation at Pedra Furada, Brazil. Antiquity 68:693-714.