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10 April 2012

Oldest Known Rock Art in the Americas Discovered in Brazil

Rough sketch of "Little Horny Man"
Motorhead’s advice to “Rock out with your cock out” takes on new meaning in light of a recent archaeological discovery. Dubbed “The Little Horny Man,” a petroglyph of a stick man with an outsized phallus is the oldest reliably dated rock art in the Americas. Found in Lapa do Santo, a rock shelter in Brazil, the petroglyph dates between 12,000 and 9,000 years ago (Chol).

Lapa do Santo is located in the state of Minas Gerais, in central-eastern Brazil. Not far away is Lapa Vermelha, where Luzia, the oldest known human remains in the Americas was found. She lived 11,500 years ago (Smith).

Lapa do Santo is a large, limestone rock shelter. Almost at the end of a nine-year-excavation, archaeologists unearthed the petroglyph after digging 13 feet below the cave's surface (Chol).

The Little Horny Man stands twelve inches tall and eight inches wide. Walter Alves Neves, an archaeologist and biological anthropologist at the University of São Paulo believes the image is connected to a fertility rite (Chol). The stick figure is highly abstracted and features a “C”-shaped head and tri-digits, that is, both hands only have three fingers represented (Koebler). The less defined legs and feet appear to be in a squatting position.

The dates of the petroglyph were determined by carbon dating the sediment that covered it (Chol). Petroglyphs are images pecked into a rock surface, as opposed to pictographs that are painted upon the surface. This petroglyph is wildly different from other ancient rock art found in Brazil and Argentina. The diversity in art occurs at such an early date making the out-dated Clovis model of migration highly unlikely (Koebler).
  • Chol, Charles. “'Little Horny Man': Rock Carving of Giant Phallus Discovered.” Live Science. 22 February 2012. Web.
  • Koebler, Justin. “Ancient Brazilian Carving Believed to Be Among World's Oldest.” US News and World Report. 22 Feb 2012. Web.
  • Smith, Chuck R. “Who Was First? Untangling America’s Prehistoric Roots”. Cabrillo College. 18 Feb 2000. Web.

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