Santa Catarina Petroglyph Rock Art Brazil
Santa Catarina Island - Ilha de Santa Catarina - is an island 523 km2 in area, in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina in southern Brazil. It is very rich in prehistoric archaeological sites, the oldest of which is the Pântano do Sul, dated to 2500 BC, roughly contemporary to Stonehenge in England and the Egyptian Pyramids. The prehistory of the Santa Catarina Island was first studied by priest father Alfredo Rorh in 1977.
Santa Catarina Brazil
The petroglyph engravings of Santa Catarina Island show an almost exclusively abstract geometrical form [with the exception of the petroglyphs from the Galheta Beach site, which are composed of irregular lines of free form]. Whilst the style of the petroglyphs may not be unique on a global scale, their consistency and dense distribution certainly are. The petroglyphs are either pecked or ground to a smooth finish, ranging from a depth of 1 millimeter to 8 millimeters. The engraved area varies from 10 x 10 cms. to panels of more than 5 metres in length. The common symbols are groups of parallel straight lines, zig-zagged parallel lines, and waved parallel lines, as well as groups of triangles and irregular quadrilaterals.
Santa Catarina Petroglyph Rock Art Brazil
Surveys have catalogued 564 engravings in 32 main sites in 14 locations, all coastal and all relatively fierce and inaccessible [with one exception - the Caminho dos Reis site]. Because of this, they have been interpreted as symbols relating to fishing, either as inviting divine intervention for a favourable sea harvest and/or territorial delimitations of fishing areas. Moreover, the ‘net-like’ formations have been associated with nets used in fishing, and circles and dots appearing within the ‘net-like’ formations representing caught fishes. The dot series have been related to some form of counting, such as the phases of the moon, used for and during fishing periods. Unfortunately, in more recent years, their presence has indicated to some the location of hidden treasure, which led to the degradation of many of the sites.
Santa Catarina Petroglyph Rock Art Brazil
Mask Petroglyph
Santa Catarina Petroglyph Rock Art Brazil
Santa Catarina Petroglyph
Santa Catarina Petroglyph Rock Art Brazil
Boat Petroglyph
Santa Catarina Petroglyph Rock Art Brazil
Face Petroglyph
Of the 564 engravings, 522 were made by polishing (92.7%), 36 by pecking (6.2%) and 6 (1.1%) by both techniques. The petroglyphs have been carved in both horizontal blocks and in vertical blocks, sometimes on the stone floor of rock shelters, sometimes on cliff faces 8 metres in height. Several caves contain underground galleries of petroglyphs.


In Florianopolis, the capital of Santa Catarina, the resident archaeologist Keler Lucas has catalogued more than 20 rock art sites. Archaeological evidence, gleaned from shellmounts, lithic stations, shelters under rocks, and rock monuments such as dolmens and astronomical observatories, indicates the presence of a culture similar to the European Neolithic period. The oldest date established, at Rio Vermelho, is 5,250 BP. Presently, the only rock art site on the island that has been officially recognised and therefore protected is at Costão Santinho.
The carvings are predominantly ‘geometric’, the most common of which is the ‘mask’ motif, named thus because of the depiction of the ‘third eye’ symbol. This motif also occurs in the neighbouring islands.
Another geometric motif is represented by a series of points and small symmetrical carved lines, thought to have been used for calendar counting, including astronomical [solstice and equinox] calculations, based on the alignment of surrounding rocks.
Primitive Geometry Style - Sketchy straight lines that are occasionally parallel, of a length between 10 and 30cms. This style also features on the beaches of Ingleses and Galheta and is common in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.
Realist Style - A carving of an enormous fish fully engraved into the granite, and blackened-out to form a silhouette without a single straight line. This appears to be unique.
Cupulas - Carved in various shapes and sizes.
Solar Disk – Carved into the rock, apparently depicting solstice events. This is also present at the site in Laguna.
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