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, March 2, 2011

The “Phoenician” inscriptions from Paraiba, Brazil

Second part on the "Phoenician" inscriptions found in Brazil.
See Index on all my posts on Phoenicians in America.
The Paraíba Inscription is a very interesting story which involves mystery, gullibility, deceit and, perhaps forgery. The inscription itself is lost, and all that exists (if there ever was a stone) is a transcription of the text. A text which tells of “Sidonian Canaanites”, that is, Phoenicians, who set sail around Africa and wound up on the shores of Brazil during the nineteenth year of the reign of King Hiram, some 500 years BC.

Today I will tell you the story of the Paraíba inscription.

It all began in 1872...

On September 13, 1872, the Instituto Historico – Geographico do Brasil (IHGB) at Rio de Janeiro received a letter posted in Rio de Janeiro addressed to the Vicecount of Sapucahy, President of the Institute. [7]

It was signed by a man named Joaquim Alves da Costa . He said that at his place at “Pouso-Alto on the shores of the Parahyba”, [7] one of his slaves had found a stone with some strange inscriptions which were transcribed by the son of Alves da Costa, who had an artistic vein.[7] The letter enclosed a paper on which the characters had been drawn.

So, it seems that the stone was not sent to Rio de Janeiro, only a transcription of the characters. The stone must have remained at Pouso Alto.

The director of the Rio de Janeiro National Museum, Ladislao Souza Mello Neto quickly disclosed this information to the local newspapers adding a translation of the text. The news was picked up by other papers around the world. And quite soon it was subjected to deep scrutiny by other scientists.

In the meantime, the IHGB attempted in vain to locate Alves da Costa and the stone. They did not appear.[7]

The site Paraíba

Actually, all references that I have found regarding the inscription assume that Parahyba is actually Paraí a small state in northeastern Brazil (on the tip of the easternmost part of the country).

I think that among the different options regarding Paraiba, they placed it here because it was closest to Africa, and the most likely place to be visited by Phoenician sailors. In my humble opinion, it is a big mistake. But we will get back to that later.

Criticism and denial

The original text of the inscription and his translation is shown in the following image:

Parahiba phoenician inscription
Netto's transcription of the Parahyba (or Paraíba) stone inscription, and his translation. From [7]

Of course, Netto was not an expert, and his knowledge of ancient languages was rudimentary to say the least (he had some working knowledge in Hebrew, which is very similar to the Phoenician symbols used in the inscription). So, as could be expected, in 1874, two epigraphists (those who study inscriptions as writing) S. Euting and K. Schlottmann claimed that it was a hoax.

Schlottman’s paper, “Die sogenannte Inschrift von Parahyba"( ZDMG xxviii, (1874) pp. 481-487) included a facsimile of the inscription (which you can compare to the one shown above).

In view of the relentless criticism, Neto himself, had the moral courage to admit that he had been carried away by his enthusiasm, and was mistaken. So he wrote a letter to his mentor (Renan) in 1885 –you can download the pdf document at the site indicated in our Source number [7], it is written in French.

Netto admitted that he had believed it was original due to the excellent navigation skills of the Phoenicians (Hanno, Aritoteles’ island), the possible action of sea currents (like the ones that took Cabral on his discovery voyage to Brazil in 1500), but that as there were several Parahyba rivers, and many places named Pouso Alto in Brazil, he could not track down Mr. Alves da Costa.

He concluded that: “The Phoenician inscription of Parahyba is a apocryphal inscription”.[7]

A hoax?

Currently many investigators believe that Neto had been the author of the hoax.

Though some believe that it was done by the French epigraphist Count de La Hure in revenge for the IHGB's the lack of financial support of his investigations. [1] (More on the Count, below)

Netto, had studied in Paris, under Enerst Renan “at that time, an authority on Punic archaeology” and had become imbued in Phoenicia and its wonderful culture. He was therefore predisposed towards them (he himself admitted this in his letter).[7] After studying, upon his return to Brazil, he was appointed as Director of the Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro, and was eager to promote investigations into Brazil's mysterious past.[2]

The stone: reviewed again in the late 1960s

So, the inscription remained ignored, having been classified as a forgery until the 1960s, when it was inspected once again.

Dr. Cyrus Herzl Gordon (1908-2001), was a leading Semitic languages scholar, who besides publishing hundreds of "serious" or "orthodox" papers, also used his knowledge to comment on strange anomalous Middle Eastern-style inscriptions found in the Americas such as the Metcalf stone and the Paraíba Inscription which he backed and for that received plenty of criticism.

Gordon believed that the text followed the pattern of similar known commemorative inscriptions and that it included information that was unknown at the time that it was found, and that therefore could not be a hoax. [3][4] Nevertheless he received criticism. [5] Gordon’s translation is the following:

We are Sidonian Canaanites from the city of the Mercantile King. We were cast up on this distant shore, a land of mountains. We sacrificed a youth to the celestial gods and goddesses in the nineteenth year of our mighty King Hiram and embarked from Ezion-geber into the Red Sea. We voyaged with ten ships and were at sea together for two years around Africa [Ham]. Then we were separated by the hand of Baal and were no longer with our companions. So we have come here, twelve men and three women, into New Shore. Am I, the Admiral, a man who would flee? Nay! May the celestial gods and goddesses favour us well!


So, we have a letter with a transcription of inscriptions found on a stone, that was never actually seen by scientists, it was posted from an unknown place on an ambiguous river by a person who could not be found later. It's text was, according to some scholars badly written and therefore a hoax, but, according to others (i.e. Gordon), genuine.

It is up to each of us to analyze the information and decide.

But why forge the inscription?

One of skeptic explanations about the forgery suggests that the "paper" was a remnant of some Freemasonic ritual in the nineteenth century Brazil.

Freemasonry. Is a worldwide fraternal organization, formerly a "secret society" fashioned after the Middle Ages guilds. Its members believe in a Supreme Being and share other beliefs of moral and metaphysical nature. Many aspects of its internal work are not generally revealed to the public; it is a "a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." [9]

Gordon, in his analysis, dated the inscription to the period of Tyrian King Hiram III who reigned between 554 and 533 BC. [6] The Freemason theory points out that Hiram inspired the character Hiram Abif in the Freemason initiation rituals, and this is the (in my opinion tenuous) link between Masons and the inscription. [6]

The other reason, already mentioned above could be revenge, by the Count de la Hure,

This is an interesting option because he was intimately involved with Brazil and had plenty of information to commit the "crime".

Monsieur Baril, V. L., comte de la Hure, knew Brazil quite well, as he wrote two books about the country, one of them, curiously mentions the name “Parahyba”: Voyage sur le rio Parahyba (Douai, 1861). This is the southern river, the one that flows through the state of Rio de Janeiro, into the Atlantic Ocean.

The other book, a detailed geographic report on the country, L’empire du Brésil (Paris, 1862) mentions both Parahyba rivers, but, and this is remarkable, only one village named Pouso Alto. [8]

This place, which still exists, and can be seen in the map below:

View Larger Map
Pouso Alegre, Minas Gerais. Map.

It is a town, also known as Pouso-Alegre, located three hundred and sixty kilometers south- south west of Ouro Preto, in the state of Minas Gerais, which, as I mentioned in a previous post Phoenicians Part 5 (The Gold of Ophir), could have been the place where the Phoenicians got their gold from (the mythical biblical land of Ophir).

The Southern Paraíba River runs parallel to the Atlantic seabord, a few miles from the border between the states of Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais and very close to Pouso-Alto.

The town of Pouso-Alto is a few kilometers to the west of the Paraiba river, but not on it.

And, although a river (the do Mandu and Itaim rivers meet at Pouso Alto) runs through the town, it does not drain towards the Atlantic (Paraiba Basin), but to the west (Paraná River Basin) because it is separated from the former by a high mountain range (1700 m altitude - 5575 ft.) the Serra da Mantiqueira, that runs parallel to the coast.

Nevertheless, it would be likely that a settler at Pouso Alto would have mentioned the Paraiba River as a place where he found the stone. He probably lived at Pouso Alto and owned land on the Paraiba.

I believe that the "Paraiba" mentioned in the letter is this river and not the northeastern state of "Paraiba". Why? For the following reasons:

  • Paraiba river offers a clear inland route from the Atlantic coast towards the Serra da Mantiqueira and Minas Gerais Region.
  • Minas Gerais has gold and diamonds. Something that would have interested the Phoenicians.
  • A landlord at Pouso Alto would have been able to visit Rio de Janeiro and post a letter there as they are very close to each other.
  • Other Phoenician evidence was found in Minas Gerais:
    "Another Jesuit reported that in 1641 gold prospectors had located some strange buildings in the area that is now the state of Minas Gerais. They brought back to Salvador several strange ceramic pots and three bronze figurines with undecipherable inscriptions on them. These objects were sent to the Jesuit headquarters in Rome and three years later, after careful study were declared to be Phoenician.”[10]

I frankly don't believe that the Count de la Hure forged the text. He was a well known scholar, employed by the Brazilian government. Though he knew the place, he had no real reason to forge a Phoenician text. In my opinion the inscription may be genuine.

More posts are on the way regarding Phoenicians in Brazil. Some are very flimsy and lack proof, but I will include them just to provide a thorough background on the subject (that is what this blog is all about: reliable references and substantiated evidence).

Thank you!


[1] Langer, Jhonni, (2002). Fenicios No Brasil. 20.06.2002
[2] Gabriela Martin, (2008). Pré-história do Nordeste do Brasil Editora Universitária UFPE. pp. 26
[3] Cirus Gordon, (1968). The Authenticity of the Phoenician Text from Paraiba. Orientalia, No. 37, 1968, pp. 75-80,
[4] Cirus Gordon, (1968). The Canaanite Text from Brazil, Orientalia, No. 37, 1968, pp. 425-436,
[5] Frank Moore Cross, Jr. (1979). Phoenicians in Brazil?, Biblical Archaeology Review, Jan/Feb 19 79, pp. 36-43.
[6] Richard Flavin. Online. Fell and Egyptian
[7] Ladislau Netto, (1885). Lettre a Monsieur Ernest Renan a propos de l’inscrioption Phenicienne apocryphe soumise en 1872 a l’Institut historique, geographique et ethnograpicque du Bresil. Rio de Janeiro, Lombarts et Comp. Online at the: Biblioteca Digital do Museu Nacional, UFRJ.
[8] V. L. Baril (Comte de la Hure), (1862). L'empire du Brésil: monographie complete de l'empire sud-am&eaucte;ricain.... F. Sartorius, pp. 443.
[9] Freemasonry.
[10] Robert F. Marx and Jenifer Marx, (1992). In quest of the great white gods: contact between the Old and New World from the dawn of history Crown. pp. 308.

Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia
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  1. O Cavaleiro da Ilha doCorvo

    (The Knight of Corvo Island
    The Cristophoros Conspiracy)

    Historical novel published by
    Editora Bussola, S. Paulo, 2011

    An enigmatic statue in the Atlantic and the Azores enigma


    The Portuguese sailors, who in the 15th century, reached the small Corvo Island in the Azores for the first time, came upon an intriguing statue of a horseman with physical features characteristic of northern Africa.
    This controversial historical topic will be the beginning of an unexpected investigation which had been asleep for centuries, for the sake of the legend, of the fantasy…
    The news of an equestrian statue found in the small and desolate Atlantic island could have been easily denied as a rumor or a legend, had it not been for its authoritative source, silenced and ignored by many across the centuries. The one who gave this news to posterity has a body of work and a credit which can’t be questioned: Damião de Góis (1502-1574), the great Portuguese humanist of the Renaissance, described with some detail, in chapter 9 of his Chronicles of Prince D. João, written in 1567, the circumstances in which the unexpected monument, described by him as “a very remarkable antiquity”, was found on the northwestern point of the island which the sailors used to call “Island of the Mark”, during the first attempts of colonization of the small Corvo Island.
    What was the monument then?
    “A stone statue put upon a slab, of a man over a bony horse, and the man was clad with a cloak, with no hat, and a hand on the horse’s mane, and his right arm lifted, and his fingers clenched except for the second one which the Latins call the index, with which he pointed to the east.”
    After being informed about the existence of this unique statue, the Portuguese King D. Manuel I sent his royal architect, Duarte Darmas, to Corvo Island to draw a sketch of the monument. When the sovereign saw the sketch he was convinced of the importance of the find and had a master stone mason sent to the island to disassemble the statue and bring it to Lisbon. However, the operation went wrong and the statue was broken due to a fall. Only pieces of it arrived to Lisbon: the man´s head and his right arm and hand, a leg, the horse’s head, and a hand which was folded and raised, and a piece of a leg. The chronicler Damião de Góis witnessed that all those pieces of the monument were kept in the king’s wardrobe for a few days, but what became of these things afterwards, or where they were taken, he couldn’t find out.
    But the account of Damião de Góis had other sources of support: in 1529, Pêro da Fonseca, the commander of the province of the islands of Flores and Corvo, “knew from the dwellers that in the rock, over which the statue had stood, some letters had been carved in that stone; and because that was a dangerous place to go to, he had some men lowered fastened by ropes, and they printed the letters, which time hadn’t erased, in wax that was taken there to serve that purpose.
    The sequence of unsettling tracks for an alternative early History of the Atlantic didn’t end here: the strange monument built by unknown craftsmen in the middle of the ocean was joined by an equally puzzling ceramic vase filled with Phoenician gold and silver coins, found in 1749 in the ruins of a house located by the shore of the same Corvo island. According to knowledgeable numismatists, the treasure was approximately dated between 340 and 320 b.C. However, these fabulous allegations weren’t without support – many foreign travelers, in the 16th century, claimed to have found allegedly Phoenician inscriptions from Canaan (Palestine), in a cave in S. Miguel island. This puzzling, obscure and shady History ends up returning to this same island, where in 1976 someone found an amulet with late Phoenician inscriptions, dated between the 7th and 9th centuries of the Christian Era…

  2. very interesting indeed, Thanks!

  3. Herculano L. E. NetoMarch 12, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Regarding the Paraiba Inscription and Joaquim Alves da Costa Freitas

    This is the latest advancement I've researched on the Paraiba Inscription case.

    Joaquim Alves da Costa Freitas fl. 1858 -- 1881

    Cf. , Joaquim Pereira de Carvalho d. 1857 had a passive debt from Joaquim Alves da Costa Freitas of 142$812 as seen in his inventory opened 1858 in Aiuruoca-MG.

    Cf. , Joaquim Alves da Costa Freitas was an estate evaluator at the inventory of Maria Justina Alves in 1881, in Aiuruoca-MG.

    Cf. Almanak administrativo civil e industrial da Provincia de Minas Geraes 1874, pp. 376-377, Joaquim Alves da Costa Freitas was "instruction delegate" and "farm negotiator &." in 1874 at Serranos-MG (, which is quite close to Aiuruoca-MG ( and Pouso Alto-MG (

    Given the proximity to Pouso Alto-MG, chronology and the fact that he is documented in Aiuruoca, I'd say this is a good candidate for the originator of the Paraiba Stone note.

    Herculano L. E. Neto

  4. I recommend thatt you read the following book ' les pheniciens ont ils decouvert l'amerique?' by emile edde He is a lebanese historian ..... I am sure you will find an english vsion of this book

  5. After finding references to Phoenician visitors to North America, I find the thought of them visiting South America easy to accept. Try as they might, Colombus's position on the pedestal isn't on shaky ground, its ground has long since vanished entirely.

    Certainly some of these artifacts could be fakes, but all of them?

  6. I'm Brazilian and the descendant of the Phoenicians have a Strong presence in Brazil, the mayor of São Paulo is Fernando Haddad, and the governor of the São Paulo State is Geraldo Alckmim, both Christian libaneses.

  7. Thank you for your text! See my paper "The discovery of America by the Phoenicians", Summary in English: How about searching Phoenician port in Brazil? I think, it's possible and necessary. My Email:

  8. Thank you for your text. See my paper "The discovery of America by the Phoenicians" Summary in English: How about searching Phoenician port in Brazil? I think, it's possible and necessary.

  9. Hey, have you ever heard of The petroglyphs of Pusharo and Quiaca in Peru?

  10. Very interesting. Seems like the phoenicians were real explores. There is a collection of ancients stones in Puerto Rico who nobody have a clue of what the inscriptions are or came. But what we know for real, is that our indians did not have a written language or how to work with metals.


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