Pedra Furada

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Pedra Furada

The Brazilian archaeological site Pedra Furada is a very large rock shelter located at Serra da Capivara, near the city of São Raimundo Nonato, Piauí, and one of the most controversial sites ever excavated in the Americas. Excavations at Pedra Furada were undertaken by Niède Guidon between 1978 and 1987 and by Fabio Parenti in 1987–1988. Both believe the concentrations of charcoal and fired stone and the lithic assemblage they found, which were radiocarbon dated to about 32,000 years old, are unquestionably the product of human activity. More recent dates obtained by thermoluminescence on some of the burnt stones delimiting the putative hearths reached circa 100,000 years.

Most archeologists do not accept the material evidence presented by Guidon and Parenti as the product of human action. They believe the charcoal fragments could have come from natural fires in front of the shelter and that the lithic material was the product of natural flaking. The sandstone outcrop where the shelter is located is topped by a thick geological layer containing thousands of quartz cobbles of several sizes. The critics suggest the "lithic industry" would be the natural result of cobbles falling from the top of the outcrop and hitting each other in the ground, sometimes repeatedly. This highly dynamic process would have produced natural flakes and simple "stone tools." However simple, some of the putative stone instruments found at Pedra Furada can hardly be dismissed as being the result of human flaking. Similar crude and simple lithic industries in unquestionable archaeological contexts can also be found in several Final Pleistocene/Early Holocene Brazilian sites, including those located at Lagoa Santa.

See alsoArchaeology .


Meltzer, David J., James M. Adovasio, and Tom D. Dillehay. "On a Pleistocene Human Occupation at Pedra Furada, Brazil." Antiquity 68 (1994): 695-714.

Parenti, Fabio, Michel Fontugne, and Claude Guérin. "Pedra Furada in Brazil, and Its 'Presumed' Evidence: Limitations and Potential of the Available Data." Antiquity 70 (1996): 416-421.

Parenti, Fabio. Le gisement quaternaire de Pedra Furada (Piaui, Brésil): Stratigraphie, chronologie, évolucion culturelle. 2 vols. Paris: Éditions Recherche sur lês Civilisations, 2001.

                                       Walter A. Neves