Pedra da Gávea

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Pedra da Gávea
The mountain of Pedra da Gávea.
Elevation 844 m (2,769 ft)
Location Tijuca Forest, Barra da Tijuca, Rio de Janeiro
Range Tijuca
Coordinates 22°59′47″S 43°16′55″W / 22.996521°S 43.281927°W / -22.996521; -43.281927Coordinates: 22°59′47″S 43°16′55″W / 22.996521°S 43.281927°W / -22.996521; -43.281927[1]

Pedra da Gávea is a mountain in Tijuca Forest, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Composed of granite and gneiss, its elevation is 844 metres (2,769 ft), making it one of the highest mountains in the world that ends directly in the ocean.[2] Trails on the mountain were opened up by the local farming population in the early 1800s; today, the site is under the administration of the Tijuca National Park.[3]

The mountain's name translates as Rock of the Topsail, and was given to it during the expedition of Captain Gaspar de Lemos, begun in 1501, and in which the Rio de Janeiro bay (today Guanabara Bay, but after which the city was named) also received its name. The mountain, the first in Brazil to be named in Portuguese, was named by the expedition's sailors, who compared its silhouette to that of the shape of a topsail of a carrack upon sighting it on January 1, 1502. That name in turn came to be given to the Gávea area of the city of Rio de Janeiro.[4]

Differential weathering on one side of the rock has created what is described as a stylized human face. Markings on another face of the rock have been described as an inscription. Some scholars, including Brazilian archaeologist Bernardo de Azevedo da Silva Ramos, have advanced the position that the inscription is of Phoenician origin and possibly proof of pre-Columbian contact from Old World cultures. Alternative theories proposed include that the rock was the site of a Viking colony or that it is connected with suspected UFO activity. Geologists and scientists are nearly in agreement that the "inscription" is the result of erosion and that the "face" is a product of pareidolia. No evidence has ever been collected that backs up the idea that Pedra da Gávea was discovered or crafted by Phoenicians or any other civilization. Furthermore, the consensus of archaeologists and scholars in Brazil is that the mountain should not be viewed as an archaeological site.

Geology and ecology[edit]

Located in the Tijuca Range,[5] Pedra da Gávea is 842 m (2,762 ft) tall, and is a granite dome.[3] The flat top of the mountain is capped with a 150 m tall layer of granite, whereas underneath, the mound is made up of gneiss.[6][7] The gneiss layer dates to around 600 million years ago. The structure was created when the granitoids intruded the metasedimentary rocks; in this way, the older Meso-Neoproterozoic rocks were intruded by the younger Neoproterozoic rocks.[5] Differential weathering has incised the northern side of the mountain,[8] and wind and rain erosion has carved etches into the mountain's sides.[9][10]

The mountain is covered in lemon, orange, breadfruit, banana, and papaya trees, as well as cannas and roses.[10]

Archaeological interest[edit]

Inscription and likeness[edit]

Interpretation of the marks on Pedra da Gávea by Bernardo de Azevedo da Silva Ramos, from his book Tradiçoes da America Pré-Histórica, Especialmente do Brasil. The first row is the inscription in situ, the second row is merely the characters, the third is a translation into Hebrew, the fourth is a rendering of the letters in the Latin alphabet, and the final line is the supposed message in Portuguese.[11]

There is a purported inscription carved into the rockface, which some claim to be in Phoenician, a Semitic language known to modern scholars only from inscriptions. According to Paul Herrmann in his book Conquests by Man, the inscription on the mountain had been known for quite some time, but had merely been attributed to "some unknown prehistoric American people".[12] Closer examination, however, led some researchers to believe it was of Phoenician origin.[12] The transliterated inscription, according to Brazilian Bernardo de Azevedo da Silva Ramos, is as follows: "LAABHTEJBARRIZDABNAISINEOFRUZT".[11]

Taking into account that Phoenician is written from right-to-left,[13] this inscription is said to read "TZUR FOENISIAN BADZIR RAB JETHBAAL",[11] which is translated roughly as "Tyre, Phoenicia, Badezir, Firstborn of Jethbaal".[12] This is alleged to correspond to a ruler of Phoenicia named Badezir[nb 1] who ruled Tyre in the mid-9th century, c. 850 BC.[12][15][16] Some people believe that the mountain is actually some form of statue; it has been described as "Sphinx-like, with what looks like a vast human face sculpted at one end."[16] The "face" of the rock is alleged to have been carved around the same time in the likeness of Badezir.[16][17] Others claim that the mountain contains a Phoenician tomb.[16][18]


Reportedly, Christian missionaries were the first group of people to notice the strange markings. They noted their findings to John VI, the King of Portugal at the time; his son, Pedro I of Brazil later took an interest in these theories.[19][20] In 1839, Januário da Cunha Barbosa and Araújo Porto-Alegre, on behalf of the Brazilian Historic and Geographic Institute (IHGB), undertook the first official study of the structure. They later published an article called, "Relatório Sobre a Inscrição da Gávea", in the which they examined the markings more closely.[9][21] In the 1930s, Ramos studied the mountain, hoping that it could provide evidence for his beliefs that "there existed a pre-Columbian civilization on the American Continent contemporary with the apogee of Phoenician and Greek expansion in the Mediterranean."[22] He later claimed to have "succeeded in deciphering the inscriptions" that were described by the IHGB;[23] he subsequently published a two-volume book entitled Tradiçoes da America Pré-Histórica, Especialmente do Brasil, that attempted to document all evidence of supposed Phoenician inscriptions in Brazil.[22]

Various other people and organizations have attempted to rationalize and verify the inscription. At least one study was undertaken by a Latter Day Saint Elder named Irineu Petri to find "the possible relation between the inscription … and the Book of Mormon."[24] Argentinian archaeologist Jacques de Mahieu argued that the inscription was not Phoenician, but rather Nordic runes, which read: "Next to this rock, numerous oak planks for ship are deposited on the beaches of sand."[25] Furthermore, he argued that Vikings would have revered the site, as the mountain would have appeared to them as their god Odin.[25] Other people believed that the caves that formed the eyes were "connected to other civilizations" or connected "to the underground city of Shambala."[19] Still others held to the idea that Pedra da Gávea was part of an alleged UFO route.[19] In 1982, the discovery of what were believed to be Phoenician amphorae in Guanabara Bay by Robert F. Marx was used as evidence by supports that the Phoenicians were at least in the area.[16][18][26][27] Marx, however, later claimed that they were Roman in origin, dating from the third century AD, and that they were probably from a ship that had crashed on the Brazilian coast after being blown across the ocean during a storm.[28]

Scientific analysis[edit]

Stone of Gávea at dawn

Because Barbosa and Porto-Alegre's research was carried out during the early years of the reign of Brazilian Emperor Pedro II; Lucia Maria Pascoal Guimarães and Birgitte Holten later postulated that the focus placed on Pedra da Gávea was an attempt by the Brazilian Empire to nation-build and "establish the 'roots' of [an] ethno-cultural" state rooted in the concept of the Old World.[29] In fact, the site later earned the title "Head of the Emperor", supposedly due to its resemblance to the face of Pedro II.[17][30] Ramos's work in particular was criticized by scientists and scholars. A.R. Nykl wrote that Ramos "adopted wrong principles and consequently arrived at wrong conclusions."[22] Furthermore, Nykl wrote that "to look for Phoenecian and Greek equivalents in the mysterious petroglyphs … is pure imagination devoid of any solid basis."[22] In an article for LiveScience, Kim Ann Zimmermann argued that the belief in the inscriptions and "face" at Pedra da Gávea are example of pareidolia, or the psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus being perceived as significant.[31]

Most researchers suggest that the inscription and "face" are merely the results of erosion. Barbosa and Porto-Alegre initially concluded that while it was possible that the marks were eroded Phoenician letters, there was also the chance that they were made by natural processes.[9][20][21] T. Cooper Clark, a fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, in his article "The XXth International Congress of Americanists", described an expedition that he took to the site, and claimed that "the lines are only formed by erosion" and that "the very inaccessibility of the spot at once dismisses the idea of such marks being the work of man."[10] In the book Geomorphological Landscapes of the World, it is suggested that the "face" of the structure is the result of differential weathering where the granite cap meets the gneiss layer.[8] In August 2000, a group of geologists travelled to the summit of Pedra da Gávea with equipment to determine whether the mountain possessed any hollow spaces; their results showed that the structure was solid and that there were not internal tunnels or burial tombs. The group also concluded that the "inscriptions" were just vertical grooves that had been worn into the less resistant parts of the stone.[19]

In the mid-1950s, the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Health denied that the site featured any writing, declaring "that examination by geologists had proved it to be nothing more than the effect of weather erosion which happened to look like an inscription."[32] Brazilian archaeologists and scholars have adopted a "negative" attitude toward the treatment of the site, with Herrmann noting that "Brazilian archaeology denies altogether the existence of Phoenician inscription in any part of the country whatsoever."[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Also written as Badzir, Badezor, Badezorus, Baal-Eser II, and Balbazer II. His father was Ithobaal I, also written as Jethbaal.[12][14][15]


  1. ^ "Padre de Gavea – São Conrado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil". Google Maps. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ de Menezes Medina, Antonio Ivo; Shinzato, Edgar. "Pedra da Gávea" (in Portuguese). Geological Survey of Brazil (Companhia de Pesquisa de Recursos Minerais). Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  3. ^ a b "Pedra da Gávea". Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Pedra da Gávea e a mística Cabeça do Imperador". Montanhas do Rio (in Portuguese). 2004. Retrieved 2013-10-23. 
  5. ^ a b Jones, Fred (1973). "Landslides of Rio de Janeiro and the Serra das Araras Escarpment, Brazil". Geological Survey Professional Paper (University of California). 697–699: 11. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  6. ^ Migoń (2010), p. 93.
  7. ^ Twidale (1982), p. 74.
  8. ^ a b Migoń (2010), p. 94.
  9. ^ a b c Barbosa, Januário da Cunha; Porto Alegre, Manuel de Araújo (1839). "Relatório Sobre a Inscrição da Gávea". RIHGB (Brazilian Historic and Geographic Institute): 86–91. Retrieved September 9, 2013.  Note: To find the article, one must search for the term "Gávea".
  10. ^ a b c Clark, T. Cooper (1922). "The XXth International Congress of Americanists". The Pan-American Magazine and New World Review (Indiana University) 36: 286–287. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Ramos (1930), p. 458.
  12. ^ a b c d e Herrmann (1954), p. 212.
  13. ^ "The Phoenician Alphabet and Language". Ancient History Encyclopedia. January 18, 2012. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  14. ^ Josephus (1810), p. 216.
  15. ^ a b Ramos (1930), p. 452.
  16. ^ a b c d e Fanthorpe and Fanthorpe (2004), p. 141–142.
  17. ^ a b Twidale (1982), p. 75.
  18. ^ a b Fort, Charles (1984). "Is There a Phoenician Tomb in Brazil's Pedra de Gavea?". The INFO Journal (International Fortean Organization). 10–11: 12. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  19. ^ a b c d Faria, Antonio Paulo (March 4, 2009). "A Pedra da Gávea" (in Portuguese). Alta Montanha. Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b Waggoner (2008), pp. 1–650.
  21. ^ a b Turin (2005), p. 103.
  22. ^ a b c d Nykl, A.R. (December 1950). "Inscripções é Tradições da América Prehistórica Especialmente do Brasil by Bernardo De Azevedo Da Silva Ramos". Isis (University of Chicago Press) 41 (3/4): 318. doi:10.1086/349215. Retrieved September 9, 2013.  (subscription required)
  23. ^ Sommer, Frederico (October–December 1920). "Stone Inscriptions and Escutcheons". American Anthropologist (American Anthropological Association) 22 (4): 388–389. doi:10.1525/aa.1920.22.4.02a00140. Retrieved September 9, 2013.  (subscription required)
  24. ^ Glover (1977), p. 200.
  25. ^ a b Buonfiglio, Monica (2009). "Descubra o mistério da Pedra da Gávea". Terra (in Portuguese) (Terra Networks). Retrieved September 12, 2013. 
  26. ^ Sullivan, Walter (October 10, 1982). "Rio Artifacts May Indicate Roman Visit". The New York Times (The New York Times Company). Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Ancient Voyagers to the New World; Columbus May Have Missed the First Boat". The Christian Science Monitor. Christian Science Publishing Society. 1982. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  28. ^ Marx (2004), p. 31.
  29. ^ Guimarães, Lucia Maria Paschoal; Holten, Birgitte (April 19, 1997). A Suposta Presença Escandinava na Terra de Santa Cruz e a Ciência (in Portuguese). Presented at the Meeting of the Latin American Studies Association. pp. 5–6. Retrieved September 10, 2013. 
  30. ^ "Trilha da Pedra da Gávea". Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  31. ^ Zimmermann, Kim Ann. "Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places". LiveScience. Retrieved December 11, 2012. 
  32. ^ a b Herrmann (1954), p. 214.