Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

H. erectus in Brazil: Toca da Esperanca Site

map of Toca da Esperanca site

Toca da Esperanca locaton. From Fig. 1., [1]

Brazilian geologist and archaologist Maria da Conceicao Beltrão has repeatedly claimed that Homo erectus was in Brazil as early as one million years ago. She has written extensively about the subject, which of course, as can be expected is not taken seriously by mainstream scientists who stand by the theory of a recent peopling of the Americas. In today’s post we will take a look at the Toca da Esperança site. Mind you, Maria Beltrão is no quack, she is a respected scientist.

Toca da Esperança site

The site (in English its name means “Cave of Hope” ) of “Toca da Esperança” is located in northeastern Brazil, in the central part of the Brazilian state of Bahia (11°2’S, 42°7’W). It comprises two caves setin the Serra Brava hills, 672 m above sea level. See map above. [1]

The site was studied by Beltrão and Locks and reported in 1987 and 1989, and they found fossils of Pleistocene mammalia (gliptodons, smilodon and giant armadillos). The site was dated using Carbon 14 and Thorium /Uranium (Th/U) methods. The first for dates not older than 10,000 BP, the second for older aged material.[1][6]

Th/U dates gave an age of 295 Kya to 250 Kya for sublevel IVb and of 210 to 250 Kya for sublevel IVb. It was from these levels that most of the fossil remains were obtained.

It was at level IV that, according to Beltrão [5][1]: “a chopper was found as well as quartz and quatzite‘chips’, with deep –or invasive- touch ups. The ‘clactonian’ type flakes and the chopper were sent to Paris to be subjected to a trace study”. In other words stone tools were found embedded in soil which was dated by Th/U methods in Paris to an age between 210,000 and 295,000 years BP.

These stone tools were very similar to those found at Olduvai Gorge in Africa, and were crafted from quartz pebbles. The nearest source of these pebbles is 10 km (6.2 mi.) from the site. In other words they did not get into the cave by natural means. Humans placed them there.

Based on these dates, Beltrão and her team, concluded that since no modern humans were alive at the time, the only source of anthropic activity must have been Homo erectus, who was alive and kicking in Brazil some 300,000 years ago, during the Mid Pleistocene.[2]

It was Henry de Lumley, a famous French archeologist who drew attention to this finding.[3]

This claim, of course, is denied by the mainline scientists who after analysing the evidence date it not older than 13,500 years BP.[4]. What do they say?

The case against it

The bones show carnivore teeth marks sure evidence that they were killed by animals not men. Furthermore there are no cut marks nor concoidal / lengthwise fractures on the bones –a clear indication of human activity. Since no young palo-lama were found and paleo-Indians found them delectable, it is unlikely that they were hunted by humans. Finally, “the scarce cultural evidence is insuficcient to defend the hypothesis of ancient human presence during this period” [1]

Furthermore, there is no reason why the tools found in the cave could not have been made by modern humans (H. sapiens). Actually, this type of stone tool is still being made today by humans in different places around the globe.

Prejudice pops up when Altamirano adds [1] that there is (bold mine) “no other site with such an enormous antiquity of 300 thousand years”, which makes me wonder, what if this is the first site that was discovered of many to come? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Lynch (1990) [7], critically points out that it is remarkable that a thin layer of soil (1 to 1.5 m deep - 3 to 5 ft.) spans a period of time from 2020 +/- 130 BP for the upper level to 295,000 BP for the bottom one. He does however say that the dating is correct and based on gamma ray and alfa ray spectrometry in France and the US. The fossils recovered from the digging are concordant with this time frame.

Though Beltrao and Danon in their 1987 paper [6] mentioned bone instruments, tooth teeth molds, hearths and charcoal on all levels, they dropped them in their subsequent papers [7]. Nevertheless the fact that the quartz came from 10 km away is also a strong point in favor of the quarts tools being clactonian . Lynch finds nothing that disproves the possible Mid Pleistocene age for the site, but would like some harder facts.[7]

In spite of the criticism, Beltrao and her team stand by their findings, and have excavated at more sites in Brazil as we will see in the next few posts, which, they say, support their theory of the arrival of Homo erectus to America one million years ago, and that they did not follow the Andean coastal route on their southern trek, but instead, came from South East Asia, via Australia and the Antarctic continent [6].

I will keep on posting about Ms. Beltrão and her findings in Brazil that uphold an early peopling of America by H. erectus.


[1] Atamirano Alfredo José, (2006). Los camélidos fósiles del sitio Toca da Esperança, Bahia, Brasil Bol. Mus. Para. Emilio Goeldi Cienc. Nat. [revista en la Internet]. 2006 Ago [cited 2012 Abr 27] ; 1(2): 147-162.

[2] Beltrão, M. M. C. and Locks, M., (1989). Pleistocene fauna from the "Toca da Esperanca" site (Archaeological-region of central, Bahia, Brazil): Mammals. In: Congrsso Brasileiro de Paleontologia, 9., Curitiba. Anais... [S.l.:s.n.]. p. 687-97.

[3] Lumley, H. et al. (1988). Decouverte d'Outils taillés associes a dês faunes du pleistocene moyen dans la Toca da Esperança, État de Bahia, Brésil. Cr. Acad. Sciences de Paris, Paris, v. 306, n. 2, p. 241-247.

[4] Lynch, T. F. (1991). Lack of evidence for glacial-age settlement of South America: reply to Dillehay and Collins and to Gruhn and Bryan. American Antiquity, v. 56, n. 2, p. 348-355.
- Lynch, T. F. (1991). The peopling of the Americas - a discussion. In: Dillehay, T. D.; Meltzer, D. J. The first Americans. [S.l.]: Academic Press. p. 267-74. chapter 10.
- Prous, A. (1992). Arqueologia Brasileira. Brasília, DF: Editora Universidade de Brasília. 605 p.
- Sanders, W. T. and Marino, J. 1971. Pré-história do novo mundo: arqueologia do índio americano. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar Editores. Curso de antropologia moderna.

[5] Beltrão, M. M. C. (1993). SOS Bahia: COPA-ICOMOS-UNESCO, 16-20 de novembro. Rio de Janeiro: [s.n.]. 15 p. mimeographed.

[6] Beltrão, Maria da Conceição de M. C.; Jacques Abulafia Danon e Francisco Antônio de Moraes A. Doria, (1987). Datação absoluta a mais antiga para a presença humana na América Rio de Janeiro: Editora UFRJ.

[7] Thomas F. Lynch, (1990). El hombre de la edad glacial en Suramerica: una perspectiva europea . Originally published in: Revista de Arqueología Americana, no 1, pp. 141-185, 1990. (154)

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2012 by Austin Whittall © 


  1. There are many sites who are supposedly, much older than this.

  2. If you have tools, post photos so we can compare to other archaic tools.


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