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Serra da Capivara National Park

Serra da Capivara National Park

Many of the numerous rock shelters in the Serra da Capivara National Park are decorated with cave paintings, some more than 25,000 years old. They are an outstanding testimony to one of the oldest human communities of South America.

Parc national de Serra da Capivara

Beaucoup des nombreux abris creusés dans le roc du parc national de Serra da Capivara sont ornés de peintures rupestres dont certaines remontent à plus de 25 000 ans. Elles fournissent un témoignage exceptionnel sur l’une des plus anciennes communautés humaines d’Amérique du Sud.

منتزه سيرا دا كابيفارا الوطني

إنّ العديد من المخابئ الصخرية الموجودة في منتزه سيرا دا كابيفارا الوطني مزيّنة برسوم صخرية يرقى بعضها إلى أكثر من 2500 سنة. وهي شهادة حيّة على إحدى المجموعات البشرية الأكثر قدماً في أميركا الجنوبية.

source: UNESCO/ERI


卡皮瓦拉山国家公园内众多岩洞中都发现有岩雕壁画,有些甚至可以追溯到25 000年前。这些壁画是南美洲最古老的人类存在的重要证据。

source: UNESCO/ERI

Национальный парк Серра-да-Капивара

Среди многочисленных скальных укрытий в национальном парке Серра-да-Капивара выделяются пещеры, украшенные росписями, имеющими в ряде случаев возраст более 25 тыс. лет. Они являются выдающимся доказательством существования одной из самых древних человеческих общин на территории Южной Америки.

source: UNESCO/ERI

Parque nacional de la Sierra de Capivara

Los numerosos refugios excavados en las rocas del parque nacional de la Sierra de Capivara estí¡n decorados con pinturas rupestres. Algunas de ellas datan de 25.000 años atrí¡s y constituyen un testimonio excepcional de una de las mí¡s antiguas comunidades humanas de América del Sur.

source: UNESCO/ERI


source: NFUAJ

Nationaal park Serra da Capivara

Er zijn meer dan 300 archeologische vindplaatsen gevonden in het park dat ligt in de buurt van de stad São Raimondo Nonato. Het grootste deel hiervan bestaat uit rots- en muurschilderingen van zo'n 50.000 tot 30.000 jaar geleden. Ze zijn het overweldigende bewijs van een van de oudste menselijke gemeenschappen van Zuid-Amerika. Bovendien zijn tijdens het ontcijferen van de iconografie van deze rotstekeningen, belangrijke aspecten van religieuze overtuigingen en gebruiken van de toenmalige bewoners ontdekt. De geologische formaties en gevonden resten van dieren tonen aan dat de omgeving in de ijstijd heel anders was dan de huidige semi-aride omstandigheden.

Source: unesco.nl

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Serra da Capivara National Park © Nomination File
Outstanding Universal Value

Brief synthesis

Established in 1979, the Serra da Capivara National Park stretched across the municipalities of São Raimundo Nonato, São João do Piauí, and Canto do Buriti in the south-eastern section of Piauí state in Brazil’s Northeast Region. In 1994, the municipality of Brejo do Piauí and, in 1995 the municipality of João Costa were dismembered   of São João do Piauí. The municipality of Coronel José Dias was dismembered of São Raimundo Nonato in 1992. These three municipalities, plus São Raimundo Nonato, are partially located in the area of the Serra da Capivara National Park.

The Park covers nearly 129, 140 hectares and has a circumference of 214 kilometres. It is situated in the morphoclimatic zone of the Brazilian Caatinga, distinguished by the multiplicity of plant formations typical of the semi-arid regions of Northeast Brazil. The region’s plant species are primarily characterized by the loss of most of their leaves during the dry season, extending from May to December, serving to lend the landscape its silver hue. The region borders two major geological formations – the Maranhão-Piauí sediment basin and the peripheral depression of the São Francisco River – and is endowed with a diversity of relief vegetation and landscapes of breathtaking beauty and dotted with exceptional vistas of the surrounding valleys, mountains, and plains.

The area houses one of the most important archaeological sites in the Americas containing evidence and artefacts that have forced a sweeping re-evaluation of the fundamental traditional theories underpinning the origins of human settlement in the Americas.

Over 300 archaeological sites have been found within the park, the majority consisting of rock and wall paintings dating from 50,000-30,000 years Before Present. Many of the numerous rock shelters in the Serra da Capivara National Park are decorated with rock paintings, some more than 25,000 years old. The analyses and dating of the evidence and artefacts found in the Serra da Capivara National Park serve to confirm the millennial presence of human beings on the American continent and the importance of the heritage. The ensemble of archaeological sites contains dating evidence that has thoroughly revolutionized classical theories regarding the entry route into the Americas by human populations along the Bering Strait. According to studies, the area encompassing the Serra da Capivara National Park was occupied by hunters and gatherers, followed by ceramic-farming societies. Discoveries at the Boqueirão da Pedra Furada archaeological site suggest that human beings may have settled the region as far back as 50,000 years ago, while the oldest remaining archaeological site with surviving rock  art dates back 10,530 years Before Present. In the light of these new findings, the region represents one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world and the property is an outstanding testimony to one of the oldest human communities of South America

Criterion (iii): The Serra da Capivara National Park bears exceptional testimony to one of the oldest populations to inhabit South America. It constitutes and preserves the largest ensemble of archaeological sites, and the the oldest examples of rock art in the Americas. Moreover, the iconography of the paintings allows us to identify information about  the region’s early peoples.


The inscribed property contains a multiplicity of attributes that warrant its Outstanding Universal Value. It is endowed with a network of sites converging to forge a rich collection of pre-historic elements enabling extensive research into the region’s environment, wildlife, plant life, and earliest inhabitants.

Formal establishment of the Park has served to ensure preservation of the archaeological sites, which stand as a testament to ancient human settlement in South America. Safely contained within the Park’s clear delimitations and 10-kilometer buffer zone, the area’s sites have remained effectively protected and intact, both in terms of their physical integrity preservation and historical and cultural value.


The Serra da Capivara National Park contains evidence of the settlement by cultural groups in the area for thousands of years. These groups successfully developed practices and pattern tailored to the environment, in addition to rich and complex cultural expressions, as reflected in the surviving art work. The surviving rock art provides tangible proof of cultural wealth of these pre-colonial peoples in Brazil. The authenticity of the diverse archaeological remains is unquestionable and conditions have been largely preserved with the conservation measures that have been implemented to date.

Protection and management requirements

The Serra da Capivara National Park is managed jointly by the Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis – IBAMA), replaced by the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation – ICMBio, established through Law 11516 of August 28, 2007, to manage federal conservation units (unidade de conservação – UC) throughout Brazil, and the American Man Museum Foundation (Fundação Museu do Homem Americano – FUMDHAM), a NGO engaged in scientific research. The National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional – IPHAN) contributes toward monitoring, oversight, and conservation of the archaeological heritage site, in strict cooperation with FUMDHAM. The Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation (Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade – ICMBio) and FUMDHAM are tasked with primary responsibility for management and administration, surveillance, and oversight of the Park and the corresponding Buffer Zone, maintenance and infrastructure, as well as environmental education initiatives and integration with the surrounding area.

The Serra da Capivara National Park is protected through Decree-Law 25 of 1937. It was officially designated a federal heritage site through Directive 54 of March 16, 1993 and entered in the Archaeological, Ethnographic, and Landscape Heritage Book (Livro de Tombo Arqueológico, Etnográfico e Paisagístico) under registration number 108, page 70, on September 28, 1993. Through Decree 83548 of June 5, 1979, the National Park was established to protect and preserve the cultural and ecological heritage contained in the area. In addition, the related archaeological sites are protected under Federal Law 3924 of 1961.

The ongoing flow of financial resources and international cooperation is essential to give continuity to the measures provided for under the Management Plan prepared by FUMDHAM in 1991. The key goal of the plan is to reclaim the balance between protection of the existing cultural heritage and the ecological components of the Park, an effort that requires permanent monitoring and surveillance, in addition to measures to conserve the archaeological remains and to provide physical infrastructure for visitor access. The primary challenge at present consists of ensuring progressive and systematic registration (photogrammetry / metrology) of the sites containing cave art, so as to enable future research, as well as the execution of ongoing conservation measures, all of which is contingent on uninterrupted national and international support.

The Serra da Capivara National Park and the area’s conservation have emerged as essential to the region’s future by virtue of the growth and expansion of archaeological ecotourism, a key driver of economic development in the area. Tourism to the region has increased steadily since implementation of the first infrastructure projects, including the Museum of the American Man.

To ensure continuity of these efforts, consolidation of a sustainable management system for the Serra da Capivara National Park is required, with a view to fostering the strategic coordination of the various initiatives launched by FUMDHAM and the participating government agencies, including IPHAN and ICMBio. Moreover, promoting greater accessibility and incentives to tourism, among other measures, is seen as a potentially effective strategy to generate the additional means needed to maintain and conserve the area into the future.

Long Description

Many of the numerous rock shelters in the Serra da Capivara National Park are decorated with cave paintings, some more than 25,000 years old. They are an outstanding testimony to one of the oldest human communities of South America.

The park is situated near the town of São Raimondo Nonato, 220 km south of Floriano and 5,230 km from Teresina. The main body of the park is the Serra do Congo massif and the central Chapada da Capivara in the State of Piauì.

Over 300 archaeological sites have been found within the park, the majority consisting of rock and wall paintings dating from 50,000-30,000 years ago. Certain geological formations and palaeofauna that included giant sloths, horses, camelids and early llamas indicate that the Ice Age environment was quite different from the existing semi-arid conditions.

The site must have been inhabited by the early men who populated the American continents. Fragments of broken wall found in the Pedra Furada shelter appear to be the oldest traces of rock art in South America; they have been dated to 26,000-22,000 BC. In spite of the value of the rich archaeological elements discovered thus far, this site is especially remarkable because of the rock-art paintings that decorate the shelters.

The shelters in Serra da Capivara National Park bear exceptional testimony to the oldest human communities that have populated South America and preserve the oldest examples of rock art on the continent. Moreover, the deciphering of the iconography of these rock-art paintings, which is being carried out gradually, reveals major aspects of the religious beliefs and practices of this people.

Physiographically, the area is connected with the Piaui and Bom Jesus do Gurgeia regions of the north-eastern basin. For 180 km, cliffs up to 270 m high form a border between two contrasting geological zones: a plain to the south-east and mountain massifs to the north-east. Erosion has hollowed out canyons and valleys within the mountain terrain. The landscape is characterized by mountains, valleys and open plains. The area is an important watershed, including the river valley system of Riacho Toca da Onca, Riacho Baixo da Lima, Riacho Bom Jesus and the Gruta do Pinga. Typical of the semi-arid region of the north-east of Brazil, the vegetation is in a transition zone between the central and the Atlantic provinces.

The park largely consists of dense thorny scrubland vegetation, known as caatinga, with a predominance of semi-arid vegetation dominated by succulents, drought-resistant deciduous thorny trees and shrubs, and other xerophytic vegetation. Relict isolated patches of forest cover survive in a few deep, narrow canyons. This vegetation, which includes palaeo-endemic relict genera and families representative of rainforest which were found in the area during the humid Ice Age of over 11,000 BP, is restricted to the canyons that retain moisture during the dry season. Serra de Capivara is recognized as one of the few protected areas within the caatingas biogeographic province which includes a vegetation type endemic to north-east Brazil. It contains unique species of animal and plant unknown elsewhere. Characteristic fauna is scarce in caatinga thorn scrubland, although recorded in the park are notable species including ocelot, bush dog, rocky cavy, red-legged seriema and a species of Tropidurus lizard.