Friday 24 February 2012

Like Taking Candy From A Baby: The Lagoa Santa Earliest American Rock Art

PLEASE NOTE: The Subversive Archaeologist has published a retraction of this post, which can be accessed by clicking here.

From Neves et al. (2012)
How funny is this? Just about an hour ago I was musing on the absence of any lunacy from PLoSone in the past while. Then up pops this on the news ticker. Earliest rock art in the Americas!
     Wow! This one definitely required all the despatch and prompt publishing that PLoSone offers! Just one thing. They published it so promptly they didn't have time to look at the so-called work of art. If this is a petroglyph I'll eat something unpleasant. They're calling it anthropomorphic! The only anthropomorphizing that's revealed here is in the (vivid) imagination of the excavator. 
     This 'figure' is on the bedrock in a limestone rockshelter in Brazil. Superposed sediments have been dated to plus or minus 11 kya. It's described as a human figure, male, with an oversized phallus. Poppycock! Horse-hockey! Oldest art in the Americas? Hardly.
    Let's see... Limestone is predominantly calcium carbonate, which dissolves, even in the presence of only mildly acidic water--that's how caves and sinkholes form. Let's see... What natural process could possibly have produced what appears like a connected series of peck marks? Wait, wait, I know this one... Water? Too right. Acidic water. Dripping from the roof of the rockshelter. Or carried along as part of a root system as the sediment gradually accumulated over the years. Or... well, you get the point.

     This is not a petroglyph. And PLoSone doesn't have a referee worth the intrinsic value of this laughable claim.
     Give me a break.



  1. An extremely negative piece that fails to mention the fundamental differences between pecked or hammered rock-art and non-anthropic markings created by natural processes. A cursory glance at the images strongly suggests a pecking or hammering process involved, though it would take an in-person visitation and examination to be absolutely sure. Given the similarity between the Lagoa Santa image and nearby stands to reason that the archaeologists have made an appropriate identification.

    You offer no evidence at all for your position and it comes across as simply having go at both PLoS ONE and the archaeologists who worked at Lagoa Santa. The former may be fair enough, but the latter?

  2. @Anonymous.
    Thank you for your very professional response. I hope you'll visit the retraction that I posted moments ago at

  3. Thank you Rob Gargett for your very professional retraction, so good that I mentioned your blog in my post. I live here in Lagoa Santa, the pre-clovis city.

  4. @Rob
    I appreciate the retraction, it always shows great character when one is able to admit to an error.

  5. Thanks to Anonymous and Bruno for your gracious acceptance of my apology.


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