The archeologist Niéde Guidon, literally, changed the history of the American continent. In the 1960s, she first saw a few pictures of the parietal art, or rock art, painted on the walls of a site in the southern portion of the state of Piauí, in the Brazilian northeast. She noticed something special on those paintings and, from this first impression, pursued the understanding of those pieces of art for 50 years. This is not only the story of Niéde, but also that of the Serra da Capivara National Park, from where proof of a much earlier arrival of man to the American continent came from.
Born in Jaú, on the countryside of the city of São Paulo, in the Brazilian southeast, Niéde was a Natural History major at the University of São Paulo (USP) – she also worked for the Ipiranga Museum, that holds an important collection of Brazilian historical artifacts. In 1964, she was targeted by the Brazilian Military Dictatorship, that persecuted university students like her. To evade this persecution, she moved to France, where she completed a Ph.D. and became a professor.
While in France, Niéde didn’t forget the paintings she had seen in the rock walls of Piauí. When she finally came back to her Brazil, she worked with scientists, environmentalists and politicians to create the Serra da Capivara National Park, in 1979. Today, the park’s territory is of over 91 thousand hectares that cross the cities of Canto do Buriti, Coronel José Dias, São João do Piauí and São Raimundo Nonato. In the park, an incredible 950 archeological sites with rich examples of rock art were mapped – 204 of them are open for tourists. The whole operation is run by the Museum for the American Man Foundation run by none other than Niéde, who is also responsible for both the museum that gives name to the foundation and the Museum of Nature, open in 2018.
Throughout these five decades of dedication to the study of the art and culture of our ancestors, the archeologist and here team found paintings of up to 12 thousand years of age and evidence that suggests the presence of humans in the region over the last 110 thousand years. Until Niéde and her team’s discovery, the most accepted theory for the arrival of man to the Americas was that of the Clovis People, some 14 thousand years ago.
Content published in August 14, 2019