‘Remarkable’ site for rock art and dinosaur footprints ‘like no other’ – cialisdfr
‘Remarkable’ site for rock art and dinosaur footprints ‘like no other’
‘Remarkable’ site for rock art and dinosaur footprints ‘like no other’

Research has revealed a “remarkable” site featuring mysterious prehistoric rock art and dinosaur footprints that is “like no other” in the world.

The Serrote do Letreiro site, described in a study published Tuesday in the journal Scientific reportsis located in a rural property in the municipality of Sousa in the state of Paraíba, northeastern Brazil.

The site, which consists of three large rock outcrops totaling more than 160,000 square feet, features an “exceptional juxtaposition” of paleontological and archaeological features, according to the study.

These features include footprints of various dinosaurs dating from around 140 million years ago to the Lower Cretaceous period, along with several petroglyphs – a type of rock carving created by removing parts of the surface using tools such as chisels.

Researchers at a paleontological site in Brazil
Researchers study the Serrote do Letreiro site in the state of Paraíba, northeastern Brazil. The site contains a “remarkable” collection of prehistoric rock art and dinosaur footprints.

Leonardo Troiano

“The main discovery [of the study] is that the site brings together petroglyphs [rock art] and dinosaur fossils like no other archaeological or paleontological site in the world,” said Leonardo Troiano, an archaeologist at Brazil’s National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (IPHAN) and lead author of the study. Newsweek.

“Although there have been discoveries of fossils and petroglyphs nearby, no place has ever been described where they are literally side by side.”

The first mentions of dinosaur footprints from the Susa area date back to the early 20th century. But the paleontological remains only became the subject of scientific study when the Italian priest and researcher Giuseppe Leonardi began research in the area in the 1970s.

Leonardi is credited with officially discovering several paleontological sites, including Serrote do Letreiro, during this decade. However, his research focused on the paleontological aspects of the site and ignored the petroglyphs that dot the area.

“He never paid much attention to the petroglyphs and only referred to them as ‘carvings left by the Kariri Indians,’ continuing to focus on the footprints in the Susa area,” Troiano said.

Since then, rock art at the site has only been briefly mentioned in the scientific literature. And before the latest study, no comprehensive analysis of the petroglyphs had been done, nor had researchers considered the relationship between dinosaur footprints and rock art.

In an effort to learn more about the site and address these issues, Troiano and colleagues conducted a survey of the Serrote do Letreiro site as well as aerial drone imaging.

The investigations led to the identification of “many” petroglyphs and additional dinosaur footprints, and revealed a close connection between the two.

Dinosaur tracks and petroglyphs
Various footprints from the site, all interpreted as belonging to theropod dinosaurs. D and F show footprints in close association with petroglyphs.

Troyano et al., Scientific Reports 2024

“We were the first to draw attention to the intimate relations between [the petroglyphs] and the footprints,” Troiano said. “We continued our research and found, in addition to the outcrop that Leonardi had studied, many other dinosaur footprints and almost a hundred petroglyphs in the other two outcrops. We decided that publishing the site was imperative because it is vulnerable, in an area with a lot of mining activity, and could be destroyed.”

The Susa area has ideal conditions for preserving prints, but not bones. As a result, relatively few fossilized dinosaur bones have been found in the region, as opposed to numerous fossilized footprints.

As a result, it is difficult to determine the exact species of dinosaur that made the footprints. But the researchers said they represent ornithopod, theropod and sauropod dinosaurs.

Ornithopods are a group of herbivores that are one of the most successful and durable genera of dinosaurs. They originally started out as small, bipedal grazers, growing in size and number over time.

[16:18] Ian Randall

Theropods, meanwhile, were carnivorous dinosaurs that ranged in size from the 2-foot-long Microraptor to the 40-foot T-Rex.

The sauropod dinosaur group includes the largest land animals to ever walk the Earth, such as the titanosaurs. These dinosaurs usually had very long necks, long tails, small heads and four thick legs. Among the newly discovered footprints in the latest study are those of a herd of titanosaurs.

The petroglyphs at the site feature geometric figures, although it is not clear what the symbols mean.

“We’ll probably never know,” Troiano said. “Because the culture that produced them is so ancient, the secrets of the visual code they used have been lost. However, we do know that based on dating from sites in the region, the petroglyphs must have been made between 3,000 and 9,000 years ago. “

Interestingly, the authors of the study suggest that there is a connection between the footprints and the petroglyphs.

“They look a lot like the initial visions generated by the brain when people take hallucinogens,” Troiano said. “This and other factors lead me to believe that their creation was embedded in a ritual context, possibly some kind of consumption ceremony, and the site was chosen because of the presence of prints and therefore considered important to them.”

“Traditionally, science has ignored and belittled Native American history and denied that native and indigenous peoples could make significant contributions because ‘their simple or primitive minds’ – according to scholars of the past – would not have been capable of admiring or manifesting scientifically curiosity fossils.”

In terms of practical implications, the study shows that Native Americans did find fossils and that they had their own way of interpreting this natural phenomenon—and that these fossils were important to them. This is evidenced by the fact that they seem to have devoted considerable effort to creating numerous petroglyphs around the footprints, according to Troiano.

The results of the study show that the fossils have more cultural significance than is commonly assumed, the researcher said.

“One practical consequence of this is that these fossils can now be recognized as Brazilian cultural heritage and not just objects of scientific interest,” Troiano said.

“It’s simply amazing to find such ancient rock art alongside beautifully preserved dinosaur footprints that are even more unfathomably ancient!” We now plan to go back and excavate the site and the surrounding area as soon as possible, and we may be able to gather more information about the ancient human group responsible for the petroglyphs.”