Lost with the National Museum of Brazil – Luzia – Luto #MuseuNacional

On September 2, 2018, the National Museum of Brazil (Museu Nacional) was gutted by fire. The loss has hit the paleontology community (and the larger museum community) hard. I will highlight over the next few days some of the many priceless specimens that have been lost.

This year, the Museu Nacional celebrated its 200th year. I am hopeful all is not lost.

Lapa Vermelha IV Hominid 1, informally referred to as Luzia, was discovered in 1975 in a rock shelter locality near Belo Horizonte, Brazil, by a French and Brazilian team led by Annette Laming-Emperaire. At the time, Laming-Emperaire felt that this was among the oldest human remains found in South America.

Facial reconstruction at the National Museum of Brazil. CREDIT: Dornike CC BY-SA 4.0

Modern dating methods confirm that Luzia died about 10,030 ± 60 14C yr BP (11,243–11,710 cal BP), making her the oldest Brazilian paleoindian (Fontugne, 2013).

Luzia’s facial features are quite different from those of other Native Americans of known Siberian origins, suggesting that her people may have immigrated to the Americas separately from other Native peoples.


Fontugne, MIchel (2013). “New Radiocarbon Ages of Luzia Woman, Lapa Vermelha IV Site, Lagoa Santa, Minas Gerais, Brazil”. Proceedings of the 21st International Radiocarbon Conference. v. 55 p.1187-1190. doi:10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16253
Laming-Emperaire, A. (1976). Le plus ancien peuplement de l’Amérique. Bulletin De La Société Préhistorique Française. Comptes Rendus Des Séances Mensuelles, 73(9), 280-287. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/27916839

Laming-Emperaire, A. (1979). Missions archéologiques franco-brésiliennes de Lagos Santa, Minas Gerais, Brésil – Le grand abri de Lapa Vermelha (P.L.). Rev. Pré-Hist. 1: 53-89.


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