Among the very few icons of Brazil’s remote past, none is more thought-provoking or more painful than the face of Luzia, the girl who died in the interior of Minas Gerais h 11,5 thousand years and is among the oldest human beings on the American continent.
Miraculously, most of his bones escaped the fire at the National Museum in 2018. But, confirming Luzia’s vocation for the apparent tragic, they now want to set up a brewery in the vicinity of the rocky Lapa Vermelha IV shelter, where her remains were found.
Perhaps you are following the telenovela in this Folha: first, the state bodies of Minas gave their endorsement to the undertaking of the Heineken brewery; then the ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation), a federal agency, seized the area; finally, Heineken obtained an injunction in the Minas Gerais Court allowing the start of the works.
The brewery, however, states that, before that, it intends to demonstrate to ICMBio that it has all the necessary technical support to build the factory in So Leopoldo (MG) without affecting the archaeological site. For now, everything has stopped.
Luzia has become famous both for her very old age and for the impressive reconstruction of her face made by a British artist. In the most famous version of her bust, she has black features, because the shape of the girl’s skull is reminiscent of people from Africa, Australia and Melansia.
Bioanthropologist Walter Neves, from USP, One of the main responsible for the analysis of the skull, he proposed that it represent a human population different from the current indigenous ones, which would have arrived earlier in the Americas, carrying the 1.0 physiognomy of our species, similar to that of current Africans and Aborigines.
Analysis of the DNA of other ancient inhabitants of the region, whose skulls have the same peculiar morphology, indicates that the origin of Luzia’s is even more fascinating and complicated. Some of them seem to have carried some of the ancestry present today in the Aborigines and Melansians. But most of their genetic heritage comes from the group that gave rise to the Brazilian indigenous people, only from an older lineage, which disappeared 8. years ago.
This entire intricate story is six times longer than the entire Brazilian history from 1500 to here is recorded in a geologically fragile environment, the limestone shelters of Pedro Leopoldo, Lagoa Santa and surroundings. This context is highly influenced by the level of groundwater, which interacts with rocks during droughts and floods, as Walter Neves explained to me in a video call.
I have nothing against development , but a delicate region, he says. The truth is that the region should have been recognized as a heritage of humanity a long time ago.
Neves says that an independent commission of experts could assess whether the factory’s environmental impact studies are in fact consistent with the safety of Lapa Vermelha IV, a site that, according to him, could still be the object of further studies.
For the bioanthropologist, the obvious economic alternative is to transform the region into a tourist center of Brazilian prehistory facing some obstacles, such as the fact that many of the caves in the area are located on private properties.
In any case, it is crucial that the public debate helps to maintain the transparency and fairness of developments in the area. Beer is good, but the understanding of our origins is priceless.
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