Archaeoastronomy of Terminal Pleistocene Rock Art on the Amazon River at Monte Alegre, Pará, Brazil

2016-10-29T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Christopher S. Davis
This research argues that an archaeoastronomy theme characterizes many of the Late Pleistocene painted rock art images in the hills west of the city of Monte Alegre, Brazil where several positioned concentric circles effectively “track” the motion of the setting sun from southern to northern solstice throughout the year. Furthermore, Dr. Anna Roosevelt’s original interpretation that a grid painting inlaid with crosshatches at the site of Painel do Pilão represents a calendar is further analyzed here. Astronomical and statistical analyses conducted for this research suggest the grid painting functioned as a tally of the daily motion of the sun for part of the year near the time of the southern solstice alignment. Excavations were also conducted below this grid image, unearthing a stone with red and yellow pigment applied to its surface, a red ochre manuport, and stone implements in stratigraphic layers containing wood charcoal that was radiocarbon dated to 13,286 to 12,736 cal yr B.P. Due to the early dates for the painted stone and red ochre, the central positioning of the grid image at Painel do Pilão, and the prime layout of the concentric circles at Serra da Lua, the “solar calendar” theme might have served as one of the earliest functions for many rock art paintings at Monte Alegre, suggesting the earliest occupants sought to geographically orient themselves to their new environment. Utilizing the solar-aligned rock paintings as landmarks, later generations could establish an astro-ecological tradition in which to plan cyclic subsistence and resource activities. Later inhabitants, inspired by the rock art, possibly personified the solar-themed paintings in their creation myths, and further evolved the function of the rock art to include animal-habitat landmarks, mnemonic landscape maps, ritual pilgrimages, and story-myth illustrations