History of South America

Brazilian prehistory

It is called Brazilian prehistory or pre-Cabralino period, the moment for the history of Brazil before the arrival of the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral, in 1500.

This view, however, is changing, as several peoples inhabited this territory before Portuguese colonization.

First Humans in Brazil

The human presence in the territory currently occupied by Brazil dates back 12 thousand years, according to archaeological evidence.

At least two different migratory routes contributed to displacement in pre-Columbian America (before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1492).

The first humans appeared in Africa 3.2 million years ago. Thus, it is correct to say that human beings came from that continent through migratory waves.

The most accepted current is migration across the Bering Strait at different times. In this way, humans arrived in Alaska and, from there, went to the rest of the continent.

Another route of displacement would be the Pacific. As the sea height was lower and there were more islands along the ocean, human beings were able to come sailing to Patagonia and the region that today corresponds to Brazil.

See also:First Peoples of America

Characteristics of the First Inhabitants of Brazil

The inhabitants of Brazilian prehistory are divided into three groups:hunter-gatherers, agricultural peoples and coastal peoples.


They lived in almost the entire national territory between 50,000 and 2,500 years ago. They occupied from the south to the northeast, inhabited caves and the forest, used bows and arrows, bolas and boomerangs made of stone.

They fed on game meat from small animals, fish, molluscs and fruits. In the Northeast it is possible to find examples of the rock art of these people that portrayed daily life, war, dance and hunting.

In the south, the "men of Umbu" who lived in the gaucho pampas stand out. These were responsible for the use of bow and arrow that was inherited by Brazilian indigenous people.

Litoral Peoples or Shellmounds

Coastal peoples occupied the Brazilian coast from Espírito Santo to Rio Grande do Sul 6,000 years ago. They basically fed on seafood, but they were also gatherers.

The "sambaquis men" were sedentary, as they did not need to travel to look for food.

The discarded shells with which they obtained the molluscs were piling up and thus were used to build houses. These are the main vestiges to study this people.

Graves were also found in which bodies were buried with various objects and painted red. This means that the "sambaquis men" performed funeral rites and believed in another life.

Farming Peoples

They lived from 3,500 to 1,500 years ago. They inhabited huts or underground houses and were knowledgeable in the technique of ceramics.

In Rio Grande do Sul they were called Itararés and in the Southeast and Northeast of Tupis. These people gave rise to the indigenous tribes of Brazil.

The Tupi knew agriculture and therefore were sedentary. Pottery was used to store food and as funerary urns when someone passed away.

See also:Prehistory (Abstract)

Brazilian Archaeological Sites

Archaeological sites are places where the presence of human beings was detected in prehistory.

In Boqueirão da Pedra Furada (PI), a group of archaeologists reported the presence of knives, axes and bonfires that are approximately 48 thousand years old.

In the region of Lagoa Santa, in Minas Gerais, the fossil Luzia, from 12500 to 13000 years old, was found. There, the Man from Lagoa Santa was also found, who would have lived 12 thousand years ago.

Other important archaeological sites in Brazil are Santana do Riacho (MG), Caatinga de Moura (BA) and Serra da Capivara National Park (PI).

See also:Art in Prehistory

Complement your research by reading the texts:

  • Discovery of Brazil
  • Brazilian Indians
  • Rock Art
  • Exercises on Prehistory

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