Stone-Age Etchings Found in the Amazon

“A series of ancient underwater etchings has been uncovered near the jungle city of Manaus, following a drought in the Brazilian Amazon. The previously submerged images – engraved on rocks and possibly up to 7,000 years old – were reportedly discovered by a fisherman after the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon river, fell to its lowest level in more than 100 years last month. Tens of thousands of forest dwellers were left stranded after rivers in the region faded into desert-like sandbanks.

Though water levels are now rising again, partly covering the apparently stone age etchings, local researchers photographed them before they began to disappear under the river’s dark waters. Archaeologists who have studied the photographs believe the art – which features images of faces and snakes – is another indication that thousands of years ago the Amazon was already home to large civilisations.” – The Guardian (more here)

Candiru Fish Video

In a way, you asked for it, so here you go! Wait, what do I mean by that? According to my stats, the story on the Vampire Fish of the Amazon is in 4th place of all time views…so here’s a short video on the tiny terror.

Although if you dare, there’s another short video which is a bit more descriptive.

Lundú Marajoara – Flirtatious couple dance

(The tourism company which does these boat shows is called Valeverde)

The Lundu, originally a dance done by African slaves in Brazil, also gained popularity among the white middle class and upper crust and became Brazil’s first national dance. Initially though, the Portuguese court and the Vatican itself banned the dance due to its sexual nature yet when the dust settled, it became popular once more. Upon its return, it was still kept hidden from public displays and therefore went ‘underground’, finding followers mainly in three Brazilian states, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and in Pará (on the island of Marajó).

What differentiates Lundú Marajoara from the other styles of Lundú is principally the form of dress, which is also used in the Carimbó. The women present themselves with beautiful long colorful skirts, white blouses, necklaces, bracelets and flowers in their hair. The men wear light blue or white pants and either no shirt at all or a white shirt with Marajoarian designs. Both dancers are barefoot.

A flirtatious couple dance, usually accompanied by a guitar, but sometimes a thumb piano or drums, Lundu is related to the Spanish fandango and other new-world dances like the Argentine Zamba, Cueca and Bolero – they all involve, to some degree, handkerchiefs, castanets, and holding ones’ arms above their heads. The point behind the dance is said to involve a man asking a woman to go to bed with him, although his invite isn’t manifested verbally but rather physically. Initially, the woman is supposed to deny the man but after persistance, she gives in at which point the dance ends.

Duck stew & Tucupi

Pato no tucupi (duck in tucupi stew) is a traditional Brazilian dish; it is mostly found in the area around the city of Belém in the state of Pará.

The dish consists of a boiled pato (duck) in tucupi (a yellow-colored broth made of scalded cassava) with manioc leaves. Appearance-wise, it resembles the famous tacacá, made different only by its use of shrimp rather than duck. Tupuci itself, when extracted in liquid form from the cassava is actually venomous thus why it has to be boiled for hours before being ready to consume (in the jungle, they just leave it out in the sun for about 4 days).

One of the more typical restaurants where it can be found is the “Círculo Militar” in Belém, in a historical palace near the harbour of the city. As for the tucupi on its own, if you wish to try something really unique, ask around town for sorvete de tucupi (Tucupi ice cream).

Indigenous Tucupi Myth

Jacy (the Moon) e Iassytatassú (the Morning Star) decided to visit Ibiapité (the center of the earth). In the early hours of the morning, they left Ibacapuranga (the Beautiful Sky) and floated down to Earth. There they stopped and rested on the enormous Iupê-jaçanã (Waterlily) and later continued on their way to the center of the Earth. On the path, when they both were preparing to decend into the Ibibira (Abyss), Jacy was stung in the face by Caninana Tyiiba (a type of cobra). Upon being stung, Jacy shed bitter tears and they fell on a manioc plant. Jacy remained with the marks on her face forever because of the Tyiiba bites. But, when the tears fell on the manioc, what came as a result was the otycupy (Tucupi).

Emílio Goeldi Museum

The Emílio Goeldi Museum is a Brazilian research institution and museum located in the city of Belém. It was founded in 1866 as the Pará Museum of Natural History and Ethnography, and was later named in honor of Swiss naturalist Émil August Goeldi, who reorganized the institution and was its director from 1894 to 1905. It is open to the public from 9:00 to 17:00 h, daily except Mondays.

The institution has the mission of researching, cataloging and analyzing the biological and sociocultural diversity of the Amazon Basin, contributing to its cultural memory and its regional development. It has also the aim of increasing public awareness of science in the Amazon by means of its museums, botanical garden, zoological park, etc.

The Museum maintains a scientific research station in the high Amazon forest (Estação Científica Ferreira Penna), which was inaugurated in 1993, with 128 mi² in the Caxiuanã National Forest, municipality of Melgaço, Pará.

Museum’s website (PT). For a great intro video in English, check out this link to a Facebook short. Keep in mind, however, that while the Emilio Goeldi Museum may be the most interesting museum in Belém, there are close to 20 other museums throughout the city.



Pororoca – Surfing the longest wave

The pororoca is a tidal bore, with waves up to 4 meters high that travel as much as 13 kilometers inland upstream on the Amazon River. Its name comes from the indigenous Tupi language, where it translates into “great destructive noise”. It occurs at the mouth of the river where river water meets the Atlantic Ocean. The phenomenon is best seen in February and March.

It is best seen when there are changes in the phases of the moon, basically two days before until three days after. It happens particularly on the equinoxes of each hemisphere and it reaches its highest intensity when the moon is either full or new.

The phenomenon, upon elevating the leval of the oceanic waters, makes them invade mouths of the rivers, abling the formation of waves up to ten meters thick and three to five meters high with a speed of 10 to 15 mph.

The wave has become popular with surfers. Since 1999, an annual championship has been held in São Domingos do Capim. However, surfing the Pororoca is especially dangerous, as the water contains a significant amount of debris from the shores of the river (often entire trees). In 2003 the Brazilian Picuruta Salazar won the event with a record ride of 12.5 kilometers during 37 minutes.

Along the branches or “caños” in the Orinoco Delta, pororoca is known as macareo, which is also the name of one of these branches.

Here’s the trailer

And here’s a description of how it happens

Pressure Cook goes to Manaus

There’s a culinary travel show called Pressure Cook with chef and host Raplh Pagano in which he gets dropped off in an unknown location and has to make enough money by cooking to get his plane ticket back to the States.

In this particular episode, he gets dropped off in Manaus and takes on various jobs in order not to pay the penalty, which is eating the larvae of some bug. The show includes the usual, caipirinhas, Rio de Janeiro reference, broken Spanish, some naive commentary yet it also allows for a look into an area that gets little attention by the media, Manaus.

Click here to go to Hulu to watch it.

Indians actually get to keep their land

“By 10 votes to one, judges ruled to maintain an Indian reservation in the northern border state of Roraima as a single, continuous territory.

It means that a small group of outside rice farmers with plantations in the area will now have to leave.

The head of the court also accused the government of failing the Indians.

This was the third occasion the court had met to reach a decision on the question, and the delays appeared to be just another indication of the sensitivity involved, the BBC’s Gary Duffy reports from Brazil.

The Raposa Serra do Sol reservation, which stretches more than 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres) along the Venezuelan border, is home to up to 20,000 Amazonian Indians.

Indigenous leaders had feared a ruling against them would have signalled to land-owners and loggers that it was acceptable to invade their territory.”

More on this story here at BBC. For the story which preceded it, go here. Unfortunately, in addition to rice farmers and surely logging companies, there’s also gold miners illegally mining gold from indigeneous territories, such as in this 25 minute documentary on the subject.

Possible Precedent for Indigenous Tribes

An Indian of the Amazonian Koruba tribe protests in Brasilia on 10 December

“In one part of the court room, in among lawyers, politicians and other activists, sat members of Brazil’s indigenous tribes – some dressed in traditional headgear with tribal paint on their faces.

On the other, a group of rice farmers and their leaders – less distinctive in their clothing but, it seemed, no less determined.

Map showing location of reserve

Both groups were there to hear Brazil’s Supreme Court deliver a landmark decision over the rights of the country’s indigenous people.

The court had been asked to rule on whether an indigenous reservation, which stretches over 1.7m hectares (4.2m acres) in the Amazonian state of Roraima, should remain a single unbroken territory.

The area, known as Raposa Serra do Sol, which translates roughly as “land of the fox and hill of the sun”, is home to up to 20,0000 indigenous people and was declared an official indigenous reservation in 2005.

Indian leaders viewed the case as setting a crucial precedent regarding the protection of their rights and ancestral lands, with implications for all of Brazil’s indigenous communities.

Their fear, they said, was that a ruling against them would be a signal to land grabbers, prospectors and loggers that it would be acceptable to invade their territory.

An adverse judgement would also create a set of “islands”, weakening the whole concept of an indigenous community, they said.”

The rest of the article can be seen here at BBC.

The Power of Speech – Living in the Amazon

“When Daniel Everett first went to live with the Amazonian Pirahã tribe in the late 70s, his intention was to convert them to Christianity. Instead, he learned to speak their unique language – and ended up rejecting his faith, losing his family and picking a fight with Noam Chomsky. Patrick Barkham meets him


Daniel Everett looks and talks very much like the middle-aged American academic he is – until he drops a strange word into the conversation. An exceptionally melodic noise tumbles from his mouth. It doesn’t sound like speaking at all. Apart from his ex-wife and two ageing missionaries, Everett is the only person in the world beyond the sweeping banks of the Maici river in the Amazon basin who can speak Pirahã.

Just 350 Pirahã (pronounced Pee-da-HAN) hunt and gather from their simple homes in the Brazilian rainforest. Linguists believe their language is unrelated to any other; racist Brazilian traders say the Pirahã talk like chickens. This obscure Amazonian people speak using only three vowels and eight consonants (including the glottal stop) but their language is far from simple. Like Chinese, for example, Pirahã is tonal and speaking in a different pitch transforms the meaning of a word. Unlike other tonal languages, Pirahã can also be hummed and sung.”

The rest of the in-depth article can be found on The Guardian UK

Daniel’s book relating his experiences in the Amazon can be found on (of course), and a 17-minute interview with him is also on BBC Radio (not sure if it will be there forever).

Special thanks to Céline at Naked Translations where I found these links.