Miss Sambaqui. Foto: Ader Gotardo/USP

The archeological sites of Guarujá and other relics

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Many people who know Guarujá only because of the beauty of its beaches do not know the richness of its history, which places it among the oldest occupations in Brazil.

It starts, evidently, well before June 30, 1934, when the then governor of São Paulo, Armando Salles de Oliveira, signed Decree 1.525, creating the Estancia Balneária de Guarujá.

Also much earlier than January 22, 1502, when Portuguese navigators André Gonçalves and Américo Vespúcio arrived in the region where today is Santa Cruz dos Navegantes beach, traditionally known as Pouca Farinha beach.

Sambaquis from Guarujá

Archaeologists at the University of São Paulo found sambaquis, structures built by human beings made with shells, over 8,000 years ago. The sambaquis (a word that comes from the Tupi-Guarani “tamba´ki”, which means “pile of shells), were sacred places and funeral rituals.

One of the sambaquis found on the Mar Casado beach, was researched by a team of archaeologists coordinated by the French Joseph Emperaire, in 1954, and by the Brazilian Paulo Duarte, from 1961. In the sambaqui baptized as Maratuá, the researchers discovered several vestiges and 12 skeletons, including one female, whose skull had small shells affixed to the forehead, which they believe were part of a funerary ritual. A photograph of the relic, known as “Miss Sambaqui”, came to be used with the logo of the Institute of Prehistory of the University of São Paulo. Miss Sambaqui was part of the population of fishermen and collectors who lived on the Brazilian coast, during Prehistory.

Joseph Emperaire, Paulo Duarte and Paul Rivet at the Sambaqui da Maratuá, Mar Casado, in Guarujá, in 1954. Photo: USP Collection
Joseph Emperaire, Paulo Duarte and Paul Rivet at the Sambaqui da Maratuá, Mar Casado, in Guarujá, in 1954. Photo: USP Collection

During a year and two months, USP researchers collected more than two thousand pieces, including shells, stones, bones, worked teeth and animal and human remains. The relics were on the skeleton of a stranded whale that remained almost intact. Today, a part of the pieces is part of the collection of the Museum of Archeology and Ethnology at USP (former Museum of Prehistory) and the rest, most of it, has been incorporated into the collection of the Museum of Natural History in Paris, France.

In fact, archeologists have only found a third of what the original sambaqui found, since the rest had been destroyed or removed from the site to be used as fertilizer in the nearby plantations. There are also records that the material extracted from the sambaquis was ground and mixed with sand and whale oil and used as a mortar in the construction of the region’s forts.

Archeological sites in Guarujá

Of the 15 sambaquis located in Guarujá, 12 are in the National Register of Archaeological Sites, of the Institute of Historical and Architectural Heritage ( Iphan ).

Among them, Crumaú, which is 31 meters high, 400 meters long and 100 meters wide. Located on the Crumaú River, a mangrove region between the Serra do Guararu and the Bertioga Canal, it is considered the highest sambaqui on the planet. At high tide, he is practically submerged. There are also the sambaquis Largo do Candinho, Monte Cabrão and Monte Cabrão 2, Largo do Candinho 2, Largo do Candinho 3 and Sítio Crumaú 2.

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