Scientists Find New Link Between Dinosaurs And Prehistoric Ancestors


A new study shows that people in Brazil in the past carved pictures into the rock next to dinosaur footprints, which suggests that they found the footprints important or interesting.

Scientists call the drawings on the rocks petroglyphs. They are at a place known as Serrote do Letreiro in Paraíba, a farming state on the eastern tip of Brazil. In 1975, researchers saw the marks for the first time. But they are now thought to be related to the footprints after new field scans, helped by drones, found carvings that had not been seen before. Dinosaurs lived during the Cretaceous Period, which finished 66 million years ago. The tracks represent their movements.

“Most people think that Indigenous people didn’t know what was going on around them or weren’t interested in science or technology,” said Leonardo Troiano, a historian at Brasilia’s Institute of National Historic and Artistic Heritage and co-author of the study. “That’s not true, though. The tracks make it clear that they were interested. The people who made the prints were interested in them and thought they had some kind of meaning. We’ll never know if they knew about dinosaurs.

There have been other rock art finds near dinosaur prints, but the Serrote do Letreiro petroglyphs are the clearest examples of a connection between the two that they have ever seen. The study’s authors think this could have big effects on the fields of paleontology, archaeology, and cultural heritage studies.

Shapes Made Of Math

We don’t know how long ago the petroglyphs were made. But the study, which came out in March in the journal Scientific Reports, says that radiocarbon dating has shown that grave grounds in the area are between 9,400 and 2,620 years old. This means that the people who lived there at the time of the burials must have been alive at that time. Troiano said, “These people were probably living in small groups and using the many natural rock shelters that are in the area.”

There is no shade in this part of Brazil, so it’s hard to stand there and cut the rock. It’s like the Outback in Australia. “They were very deliberate when they chose this location because it takes a lot of work,” he said. It’s possible that they could have used a lot of other rocks in the area, but they picked this one.”

The different styles of the drawings show that more than one artist may have worked on them. Some of them look like plants, while others are more like geometric shapes like squares, boxes, and circles. Troiano said that the crosses or lines inside the rings might make them look like stars. But it’s still not clear what these marks mean. He said, “They all seem vague, and if they meant something to the people who made them, we don’t know what it is.”

Three kinds of dinosaurs left tracks at Serrote do Letreiro. These are from theropods, sauropods, and ornithopods. Researchers think that the people who carved the rock might have thought that some of the marks were those of rheas, which are big native birds that look a lot like ostriches and have tracks that look a lot like those of theropod dinosaurs.

Prehistoric people left the sauropod prints, which are very different from any animal they would have known because the sauropods were some of the biggest vegetarian dinosaurs that ever lived. A deliberate link between the drawings and these specific prints is less clear, the study said. This is likely because of this.

Dinosaur Ceremonies 

Troiano said he thinks the marks might have been made when the dinosaurs got together as a group. “I think that making rock art was part of some kind of ritual: people getting together to make something, maybe while high on drugs.” He said, “We still use jurema, a plant that makes people feel high.” Because it’s so common and easy to find in the area, we can guess that people used it in the past as well. Their curiosity led them to figure out what the tracks were, which I think was why they called them footprints. They saw that it wasn’t random.

The United States and Poland also have other sites with petroglyphs near dinosaur footprints, but Troiano said they don’t show “nearly the same level of intentionality.” It’s not enough to know how close the drawings are to the pictures; they also need to overlap with each other. It shows “thoughtfulness” on the part of the makers if they don’t cross, the study says.

After the study, Troiano said he is working on a second paper that will go into more detail about how to understand and analyze the Serrote do Letreiro petroglyphs. This paper will build on the results of the first paper.

An associate professor of archaeology at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, Radosław Palonka says that the direct connection between the drawings and dinosaur fossil tracks is unique and may shed more light on the importance, meaning, and significance of rock art. Palonka has worked on similar petroglyphs but wasn’t involved in the study.

Palonka wrote in an email, “The fact that the rock art panels were placed in specific places is shown by the fact that members of the communities that made the paintings or petroglyphs often put them very close to older images left by other cultures.” “This was true in many places around the world where rock art was made. For example, it is very clear to see in the North American Southwest/U.S. Southwest, which is where my scientific interests lie.”

Jan Simek, a well-known anthropology professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, who was not involved with the new petroglyphs study, said, “The paper gives an interesting new example of how ancient people looked at fossils in the landscape and used them in their religious experiences and interpretations.”

“Adrienne Mayor, a historian of science at Stanford University, has shown how ancient Greeks and Romans saw fossils as proof of giants and monsters from their own mythologies. She has also shown how native North American people saw fossils as proof of their own origin stories,” Simek said via email. “The Brazil case is another archaeological example of how people tend to connect the spiritual world they make up in their minds to strange things happening in the real world.”