Tweet by Tweet: Analysing the anatomy of voice in conference live tweets

Its now just over a week since the end of SAA2017. Back at home I’ve been reflecting on this great conference.

I decided to spend more time at the bioarchaeology and funerary archaeology sessions at SAA as I was at CAA recently. Nevertheless, I was able to keep up with many of the discussions at the digital sessions running in parallel because they were live tweeted.

This got me thinking about coverage of the conference on twitter, differences between the coverage of each session, how to visualise these, and more importantly what it might tell us.

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with the TAGS tool from Hawksey that has some nice archiving and visualisation capabilities built in Google Sheets using Google Scripts.

TAGS 6.1 and #SAA2017

Using TAGS 6.1 I did some data-mining and extracted a dataset of tweets with the SAA2017 hashtag to look for some patterns in the data. This was facilitated by the fact that the SAA tweets are well organised by sessions using #s tags, and indeed one of the first tweets in the dataset that I extracted was about the use of hashtags:

and @captain_primate had helpfully pointed out Brian Croxall’s tips for tweeting at conferences

The TAGS archive started from 26 March 22.53, three days before the first event, until 5 April 2017 22.56, approximately three days after the close of the conference. This comprised 5459 tweets from 979 users (#SAA2017 Tweeps).

Now is a good time to highlight that this dataset will not be fully representative of the conference sessions and discussions for a few reasons, the main ones being:

  1. It only represents a subset of the tweets from SAA, given that not all users used the SAA2017 hashtag, and not all session-related tweets would have been tagged with the session tag
  2. The extract may not be complete, because Twitter’s search API is “focused on relevance and not completeness” according to a statement from Twitter posted on Hawksey’s FAQs page, others have found that the API doesn’t always represent all Twitter activity accurately (Gonzalez-Bailon et al. 2012)
  3. Finally, not everyone tweets, and those who do tweet are not necessarily representative of the conference audience

The first two points are related to working within the constraints of the source of the data and tools available. The third one is relevant to the content and focus of the tweets, which we’ll explore more below.

Despite these ‘challenges’ ☺ I decided to hack the data to analyse in Voyant Tools (a great text analysis tool I found out about via @electricarchaeo: Graham 2014).

Voyant Tools Analysis

To analyse the tweets I sorted them by date, from oldest to most recent, and loaded this into Voyant Tools as a single corpus to see what it looked like (you can access the Voyant Tools corpus here).

The total count was 95,802 words and 10,418 unique word forms, the most frequent being saa2017 (5335); rt (2140); https (2028); (1897); data (730); archaeology (714); amp (543); s149 (347); digital (297); session (296).

The graph and bubble line below show the frequency of words appearing over the duration of the dataset.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 20.09.30

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 20.18.10

Five words (saa2017, rt, https,, amp) among the top 10 are more related to technicalities, this means that they are predisposed to being high frequency by default.

As SAA2017 is the search term it was expected to be included in all tweets. It was used as a hashtag on every tweet, but due to the way that TAGS archives the data it didn’t appear in the “text” field on 124 records, hence only appears on 5335 in the dataset of 5459.

RT occurred frequently, as each retweet started with those characters. is twitter’s shortened URL, mostly used for image links. Amp is short for ampersand and appeared because TAGS extracted this as a text code.

Interestingly, RTs increased greatly towards the end of the sample period, possibly because people looked back over the increasing archive of tweets from the conference as it progressed and finished.

The removal of each of these technical words from the list reveals that discussions frequently mentioned data, archaeology, digital, session, and s149.

At an archaeology conference you’d expect people to discuss archaeology and the sessions they were attending. The high frequency of data, digital and s149 looks to be due to the fact that s149 was the most tweeted session. It was the Forum “Beyond Data Management: A Conversation”, and is related to data and digital archaeology.

Furthermore, s149, data and digital may have been tweeted more frequently because of the point discussed above: Twitter users are more likely to be a subset of attendees concerned with digital topics, given that Twitter is a digital media platform.

It is possible to tie the tweeting of data and s149 together using Voyant Tools Collocates functionality, which shows the high frequencies of these two together.

Screen Shot 2017-04-08 at 20.32.45

To investigate the coverage of other sessions, I filtered for the top 10 most frequently tweeted session IDs, and reviewed the frequency of mentions over time.

The filter shown that ‘digital archaeology’-themed sessions dominated the tweet sample. Eight out of 10 top tweeted sessions had direct links to digital archaeology or computer applications and archaeology. The most frequent was s149.

ID Session Categorisation
s149 Beyond Data Management: A Conversation About “Digital Data Realities” Digiarch
s227 The Future Of “Big Data” In Archaeology Digiarch
s372 Lightning Rounds Institute For Digital Archaeology Method And Practice Project Reports Digiarch
s37 Archaeological Epistemology In The Digital Age Digiarch
s224 Burning Libraries: Environmental Impacts On Heritage And Science Environment
s112 How To Do Archaeological Science Using R Comparch
s18 Methods And Models For Teaching Digital Archaeology And Heritage Digiarch
s312 Current Challenges In Using 3d Data In Archaeology Digiarch
s256 Do Data Stop At The 49th Parallel? The State Of Archaeological Databases Digital Methodologies, Heritage Management, And Research Collaboration Through Canada And The United States Digiarch
s330 Investigating The Hunter-Gatherers Of Lake Baikal And Hokkaido: Integrating Individual Life Histories And High-Resolution Chronologies Hunter-Gath.

The temporal patterning of session IDs shows clear peaks during the times when each session took place. This points to sessions being ‘live tweeted’.


Digging Deeper

To gain some more insights into the data I looked at the full list of 5459 tweets to determine the most frequent tweeters. I defined these high frequency tweeters as users contributing 0.99% or more of the entire dataset. This turned out to be 20 users, so I termed them T20 Tweeters, in contrast to all other users.

I’ve provided the counts and proportion of tweets per each T20 Tweeter below against generic usernames. This is because although the data is publicly available on Twitter, the users might not have anticipated the publication of their specific usernames on a blog (cf. Twitter 2017a).

However, I’ve maintained the handles along with the the tweet text for each specific tweet in the archive, as required by Twitter’s broadcast guidelines (Twitter 2017b). If you are interested in seeing the user handles, you can find all the data there, or in the TAGS archive.

You can read more about the ethical discussion on social media data-mining online from a range of sources (Fish 2010; Social Data Science Lab 2016; Townsend and Wallace 2016; Zimmer 2010).

Users Count % of Total SAA2017 Tweets
User_01 302 5.53%
User_02 195 3.57%
User_03 169 3.10%
User_04 165 3.02%
User_05 139 2.55%
User_06 102 1.87%
User_07 100 1.83%
User_08 91 1.67%
User_09 87 1.59%
User_10 85 1.56%
User_11 84 1.54%
User_12 83 1.52%
User_13 82 1.50%
User_14 81 1.48%
User_15 79 1.45%
User_16 77 1.41%
User_17 62 1.14%
User_18 57 1.04%
User_19 54 0.99%
User_20 54 0.99%

Once I had the T20 tweeters and the top 10 sessions I decided to use this data to investigate two things.

Firstly, how the top 10 sessions compared to a selection of bioarchaeology and funerary archaeology sessions as these were not tweeted as frequently, and secondly, the influence of T20 Tweeters on how much each session was tweeted.

ID Session Categorisation
s276 Curating The Past: The Practice And Ethics Of Skeletal Conservation Bioarch
s92 Bioarchaeology And Genetics Bioarch
s139 Manipulated Bodies: Investigating Postmortem Interactions With Human Remains Bioarch
s31 Bodies As Narratives: Revisiting Osteobiography As A Conceptual Tool Bioarch
s219 Life And Death In Ancient Nubia: Archaeological And Bioarchaeological   Perspectives Bioarch
s252 Mortuary Practices And Funerary Archaeology I Funarch
s245 “Us” And “Them”: The Bioarchaeology Of Belonging Bioarch

The Lowdown

Breaking out the tweets per session shows the high frequency of s149 tweets, and that much of the conversation came from T20 Tweeters.The disparity between the top 10 sessions and the bioarchaeology and funerary archaeology sessions is clear. The majority of the latter have very few tweets.

Only one bioarchaeology session comes close to the coverage of the top 10, which is s276, and that is due to the fact that it was extensively covered by a T20 tweeter.


Looking at the number of tweeters per session, there were high levels of participation in the conversation in s149, but in some of the top 10 sessions there were relatively fewer tweeters, particularly in s224, on the environment, s312: a project-specific session, s256, and s330.

Greater numbers of the T20 Tweeters tweeted about the digital archaeology compared to the hunter-gatherer, bioarchaeology and funerary archaeology sessions.


To compare the dominance of voice across each session, I compared the % of tweets per session from the T20 Tweeters.

Across the sample 60-80% of the Top 10 Sessions’ tweets came from T20 Tweeters, suggesting they were the dominant voices in the conversation. The situation is different in the bioarchaeology ones, where 5 of the 6 session were 80-100% tweeted by a T20 Tweeter – if they hadn’t been there, the sessions wouldn’t have been tweeted!

One session from the Top 10 that stands out is the hunter-gatherer session, s330 which has the lowest % of tweets from the T20 Tweeters, suggesting that this was not attended by as many of these users.


To further investigate these patterns, I also looked at the proportion of RTs within each session’s tweets. This reveals that 20-60% were retweets in each of the top 10, except in s330. Here, over 70% of tweets were retweets.The evidence from the bioarchaeology sessions points to much less retweeting than the top 10. Interestingly, the one session of all analysed with no T20 Tweeters was s219, and this had a much higher retweet component compared to the other bioarch sessions, at over 60%.

One potential hypothesis to test based on this data is whether the proportion of retweets in a session is greater when there are fewer high frequency T20 Tweeters.

If this turns out to be the case, it might be that high frequency tweeters are generating more original content.



T20 Tweeters appear to be prolific tweeters who are interested in live tweeting the conference sessions they attend. As we might expect, those users are to be more likely to attend digital-related sessions, and hence these are the most frequently tweeted.

Where fewer T20 Tweeters live tweet the session, there may be less original content, and the RT component increases.

Another interesting aspect was the increase in RTs towards the later end of the data range, the end of the conference and the period afterwards. This may be due to the fact that as the conference runs it will accumulate a greater number of tweets which may be retweeted, but it may also be a function of how users interact with twitter, returning to review tweets as the event closes.

This is only a small scale investigation and there is much more to explore. However, there are other articles to be done before Easter, so I didn’t get to look at aspects such as the impact of the duration of the session on tweets, nor did I explore retweets in depth, or touch on likes, replies and follower counts.

The data used is posted to Zenodo under the DOI 10.5281/zenodo.495733 (#SAA2017 Tweeps); Github; Voyant Tools corpus or via the TAGS archive.

P.S. As the evidence points out we also need to give bioarchaeology at SAA some more digital exposure, so you can check out the presentation I gave at SAA here.


#SAA2017 Tweeps. 2017. SAA2017 TAGS Tweet Archive [Data set]. Zenodo.

Fish, A. 2010. Mining Twitter and Informed Consent. Available at: Accessed: 9 April 2017.

Gonzalez-Bailon, S. Wang, N. Rivero, A. Borge-Holthoefer, J. & Moreno, Y. (2012). Assessing the Bias in Communication Networks Sampled from Twitter. SSRN Electronic Journal. DOI 10.2139/ssrn.2185134

Graham, S. 2014. Text Analysis of the Grand Jury Documents.  Available at: Accessed: 6 April 2017.

Social Data Science Lab. 2016. Lab Online Guide to Social Media Research Ethics. Available at: Accessed: 9 April 2017.

TAGS. 2017. FAQs. Available at: Accessed 9 April 2017.

Townsend, L. Wallace, C. 2016. Social Media Research: A Guide to Ethics. University of Aberdeen. Available at: Accessed: 9 April 2017.

Twitter. 2017a. Developer Agreement & Policy. Available at: Accessed: 9 April 2017.

Twitter. 2017b. Broadcast Guidelines. Available at: Accessed: 9 April 2017.

Zimmer, M. 2010. Is it Ethical to Harvest Public Twitter Accounts without Consent? Available at: Accessed: 9 April 2017.

Fire by Trevor Hurlbut CC BY 2.0

O Fogo e a Morte: A Cremação Como Prática Funerária Ritual, Simpósio de Arqueologia das Práticas Rituais, SAB 2015

O Congresso da Sociedade de Arqueologia Brasileira (SAB) realizou a XVIII edição na cidade de Goiânia em setembro 2015. Arqueologia para quem? foi o tema do evento. O objetivo era convidar os participantes a refletir sobre a relação entre a arqueologia e os públicos, e a discutir sobre caminhos mais eficazes na troca do conhecimento arqueológico com a sociedade, além de debater sobre o papel social do arqueólogo e o fim social da arqueologia. Uma questão muito pertinente sempre, mas em especial ao refletirmos sobre como nos comunicamos e publicamos a pesquisa acadêmica, especialmente em tempos de grande interação nas redes sociais como nos últimos 10 anos e de rápidas mudanças e incorporações tecnológicas na arqueologia.

Quando penso sobre como poderíamos melhorar a forma com que nos comunicamos com a sociedade e interessados na temática da arqueologia sempre me vem à cabeça a linguagem e os jargões utilizados na academia. Como arqueóloga acredito que poderíamos nos comunicar de maneira mais acessível, falando sobre a pesquisa de modo compreensível e atraente a qualquer pessoa.

Também em busca de responder a essa reflexão encontrei no blog um caminho acessível para trocar e compartilhar o que venho aprendendo na minha vida acadêmica. Nos últimos seis meses passei a escrever blog posts não apenas para as universidades e projetos em que estou envolvida, mas também para o meu pequeno projeto – Ossos, Enterros e Café Preto (Bones, Burials and Black coffee) um blog pessoal que tem a pretensão de ser bilíngue (português, porque é a minha língua materna e inglês por ser uma língua franca nos dias atuais) onde escrevo sobre tópicos que me interessam e sobre a minha pesquisa de maneira mais informal, com o objetivo de tornar o conteúdo acessível a quem tiver interesse.

E o post de hoje é sobre a apresentação que fiz em 2015 no congresso da SAB no simpósio – Arqueologia das Práticas Rituais – organizado pelas professoras Cristiana Barreto e Daniela Klökler. O simpósio foi muito produtivo. As apresentações foram de alta qualidade e discutiram sobre uma série de tópicos que incluíram aspectos das práticas funerárias, objetos rituais, festins, entre outros em sítios arqueológicos Sambaquis, na Amazônia, no Amapá e Jê do Sul. Além de tópicos que falaram sobre sentidos e memórias. Foi também uma oportunidade muito boa para rever amigos e para conhecer pessoalmente um grupo de pesquisadores cujo o trabalho eu gosto muito e acompanho já há alguns anos.

O Fogo e a Morte: a cremação como prática funerária ritual foi o tópico da minha apresentação, onde discuti sobre a ritualização das práticas funerárias desenvolvidas nas terras altas do sul do Brasil, a partir de 1000 anos depois do presente até o período de contato. O artigo completo do simpósio foi publicado há poucos dias e esta disponível  aqui. O trabalho compõe o volume 14, N. 1 de 2016 da revista Habitus que conta com outras apresentações do simpósio.

Fire por Trevor Hurlbut licenciado sob CC BY 2.0

Fogo (by Trevor Hurlbut licenced CC BY 2.0)

Para esse post escolhi três partes relevantes do artigo. Acredito que esses tópicos ajudam a demonstrar a importância da cremação enquanto prática funerária para as sociedades ameríndias e Jê meridional.

1. Os remanescentes humanos cremados são importantes fontes de informação para a interpretação do passado e requerem uma metodologia adequada para o seu estudo.


Elementos ósseos cremados do crânio remontados (Escala 1 cm; Priscilla Ulguim (c)).

No passado foram vistos como não significativos ou como uma prática funerária inferior em relação a inumação e aos remanescentes não queimados. Isso porque muitos acreditam que o fogo destrói os ossos. Uma visão bastante disseminada na arqueologia e de modo geral. É bastante frequente arqueólogos comentarem que não é possível inferir muito sobre aquele “monte de cinzas”. Isso não é verdade. Como disse Hertz, 1960, p. 46 “Longe de destruir o corpo, o fogo transforma o corpo”. Com o avanço das técnicas forenses, químicas e bioarqueológicas principalmente nos últimos cinco anos, muito se pode inferir sobre os remanescentes cremados. Se você quiser saber mais sobre essas técnicas e métodos aqui esta um capítulo que escrevemos recentemente (THOMPSON; ULGUIM, 2016). O fogo é um agente cultural e tafonômico e as alterações que ele induz nos ossos podem ser “lidas” facilmente por um especialista na temática dos ossos queimados. Contudo, por ser um tema difícil devido a natureza desafiadora dos ossos queimados, e pelo fato de não serem considerados por curadores e museólogos “atraentes” é muito comum que sejam negligenciados pelos arqueólogos, preteridos pelos bioarqueólogos e desconhecidos pela sociedade. Essa parte do artigo buscou discutir como a combinação de diferentes abordagens e métodos aliados a teoria da ritualização podem demonstrar a importância dessa prática e desses remanescentes.

A negligência dos ossos cremados é um grande problema na arqueologia e recentemente vem sendo repensada. Um bom exemplo dessa negligência que muitos conhecem ou já ouviram falar é Stonehenge. Um famoso sítio arqueológico que fica na Inglaterra. Esse sítio data do início do terceiro milênio antes de cristo. Foi um cemitério de cremações onde indivíduos foram depositados no interior de um círculo feito de pedras verticais conhecidas como pedras azuis (bluestones). Stonehenge teria sido fundado como um cemitério cerimonial onde membros de uma família distinta, provavelmente do País de Gales, teriam sido enterrados após sua cremação, e durante um período de aproximadamente cinco séculos. Para os pesquisadores, ao longo do tempo Stonehenge passou a ser um local de referência e vínculo com os ancestrais. Seus remanescentes humanos cremados escavados entre 1920 e 1926 não foram aceitos por quase nenhum museu na Inglaterra e foram reenterrados no sítio sem terem sido analisados em sacos de areia no ano de 1935 no Aubrey Hole 7, até que em 2008 foram reescavados e coletados para análise pelo Stonehenge Riverside Project.


Placa que acompanhava os remanescentes reescavados em 2008. Na placa detalhes de quando os ossos foram depositados no Aubrey Hole 7 após a recusa de museus (Fonte: Parker Pearson and SRP 2012).

Com esse exemplo buscamos aqui demonstrar que a cremação é um rito funerário complexo com múltiplos propósitos e que não constitui um ato final, e que não excluí o enterramento dos indivíduos.

“A cremação não é apenas uma, mas muitas práticas funerárias”(QUINN; KUIJT; COONEY, 2014, p. 5)

2. Há uma profundidade temporal significativa na prática ritualizada da cremação nas terras altas do Sul do Brasil onde repetidamente depósitos cremados foram depositados em aterros com anéis funerários.

A revisão da literatura aponta que a cremação estaria presente desde o século XI até o início do século XX, e claramente fez parte de uma importante prática ritualizada. Tal prática não parece apoiar a hipótese que propõe que o padrão de sepultamento entre os Jê meridional teria passado por uma transição de sepultamentos coletivos em grutas para enterros individuais em montículos. As evidências encontradas nos sítios arqueológicos não suportam essa hipótese, e pesquisas recentes apontam a presença não apenas de depósitos individuais, mas também múltiplos realizados sucessivamente com passar do tempo nas mesmas feições funerárias.

3. A abordagem etnobioarqueológica (Etnobioarqueologia) foi um importante aspecto desse trabalho.

Nesta parte investigo os relatos etnográficos e ethnohistóricos dos mitos/cosmologia dos Laklanõ/Xokleng, que não foram exploradas de forma tão pormenorizada como as do Kaingang ao discutirmos esses monumentos. Por isso escrevi especificamente sobre algumas cerimônias como o Waikômáng e o Ãgyïn. Pois acredito ser mais relevante para a discussão os temas em comum desses grupos do que quem cremaria os mortos. Esses seriam os três pontos que escolhi para falar neste post.

Ao esclarecermos alguns dos equívocos construídos ao longo do tempo sobre a cremação e a prática funerária dos Jê do Sul passamos também a melhor compreender o fenômeno da cremação nas sociedades ameríndias. Outros pontos como a percepção de uma boa morte, semelhanças e diferenças no registro arqueológico funerário, aspectos específicos das análises bioarqueológicas e dos remanescentes cremados e sua relação com a paisagem também foram discutidas no artigo. Espero que o artigo e o blog possam auxiliar na reconsideração dos rótulos atribuídos aos remanescentes cremados e a seu potencial informativo.


Parker Pearson, M. and the Stonehenge Riverside Project 2012. Stonehenge: Exploring the Greatest Stone Age Mystery. Simon & Schuster: London.

Thompson, T. J. U. and Ulguim, P. 2016. Burned Human Remains. In Blau, S. Ubelaker, D. H. (eds.) Handbook of Forensic Anthropology and Archaeology. Second Edition. Left Coast Press: Walnut Creek.

Ulguim, P. F. 2016. O fogo e a morte: a cremação como prática funerária ritual. Habitus Goiânia 14(1):107-130. DOI: 10.18224/hab.v14.1.2016.107-130

Quinn, C. P. Kuijt, I. Cooney, G. 2014. Introduction: Contextualizing Cremations. In Kujit, I. Quinn, C. P. Cooney, G. (eds). Transformation by Fire: The Archaeology of Cremation in Cultural Context. University of Arizona Press: Tucson, pp. 3-22.

Leia mais sobre o projeto Jê Landscapes of Southern Brazil

Bonding over Bones: Crime Scene Science Field Trip to Saltburn

On Friday morning we ran our first year undergrad field trip for 30 of our new crime scene students and held a mock session on the beach at Saltburn.

We met at 09:30 near the Students’ Union to take the bus together. As we drove to Saltburn there was dead silence on the bus. Did I say silence? On a bus full of undergrads? Well, yes. Term is just about to start and one of the main reasons we run the trip is to help the new students get to know each other. It is also a chance to familiarise them with a crime scene scenario, and normalise the excitement of that experience in a fun environment. We all know that if you enjoy what you do you will be more likely to do it better, and having fun is associated with positive learning experiences. Working together in the open air in the beautiful coastal landscape is certainly a great start, and a good memory; after all everyone remembers their first undergrad trip – so a positive one is all the better.

We had set up the ‘crime scene’ on the beach and before we got started Professor Ian went down to double check everything was in place. This consisted of several ‘dead bodies’ (think anatomical replicas), completing the final health and safety review and ensuring all the equipment was ready to use. There were also some rather colourful spades and buckets for some fun team-building activities.


Taped-off: Part of the beach was off limits for the day (Priscilla Ulguim CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0)

When all was ready a large group of excited students headed down to the beach to learn about working at a crime scene. If you have ever have been to Saltburn you will know that are more than a few steps down the spectacular cliffs to beach below.  Along the seafront the peaceful expressions of dog-walking and coffee-drinking locals turned to surprise and curiosity when they saw us bearing down on what now appeared to be a crime scene – and then they realised that this was just a university outing.

At the scene Professor Mark outlined the main tasks for the activities and the ‘dos and don’ts’ of crime scene management: health and safety, marking out the scene, setting a walking path, photographing evidence, logging people arriving and leaving, which specialists to bring onsite, and the importance of the questions for each specialist, along with other standards for crime scene management and decision making.

We then split into four groups, each covering different activities which aimed to get the students to think about the practicalities of managing a crime scene, a theme which they will encounter throughout the course of their degree and professional careers.

My role as forensic anthropologist was to supervise excavation of the skeletal human remains and explain best practices for recording crime scene contexts containing human remains. For this I was carrying some standard archaeological kit: tape measures, scales, buckets, trowels, finds trays, skeletal recording sheets, forensic protocols and my favourite field guide, and of course the skeletal casts which were by now already buried below the sand, along with some animal bones scattered about to complicate identification.

The students excavated in pairs, with the goal of taking notes and filling in a basic recording sheet. I clarified the role of forensic anthropologist and archaeologist to them, and described how to record the scene, including the necessity of opening a clearly defined trench, taking measurements, and how context is vital, not just the bones themselves.

I also outlined how we can read the bones to explore individual biographies using processes for identifying age, sex and recording pathologies, traumas, cut marks, as well as taphonomic changes. Each supports the main goal in these situations: identifying the individual and evidence of the perpetrator. The conversation encouraged the students to consider the questions to ask themselves regarding remains in-situ. As they excavated we discussed the findings, and their interpretations as to whether the skeleton was articulated, disarticulated, and if the remains were commingled, which got us talking about depositional processes. We also touched on other methods that could be applied, including digital recording methods and analytical techniques, and ethical points such as the importance of respect for human remains.

The students appreciated the hands-on scenario, and they kept digging until I had to stop the last group as the tide rolled in (we discussed how to manage that type of situation on excavation too!).


Teamwork! Excavating the mock grave (Priscilla Ulguim CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0)

After a lunch of fish and chips at a lovely local pub, and an ice-cream (it was a beautiful sunny day). We ran a quiz on the biggest myths about forensics and Saltburn’s top attractions. At the end of the day we returned to the top of the hill to catch our bus and we announced the quiz winners who won some very special Haribos of their choice. There was an excited and happy atmosphere on the return journey, chatting, laughing about the day and taking photos. So, goals met, the team bonded over the bones, and had a thought-provoking experience in the field. I had a great time and hope our students did too. Thanks to Professors Ian and Mark for the welcome and helping me out with the scene setup.


A good beach trip always involves ice cream (Priscilla Ulguim CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Uma Viagem para as Terras Altas, Um mês no Lab: Abreu e Garcia, Urubici e de volta


Este ano eu troquei parte do verão europeu pelo inverno na América do Sul. Recentemente viajei para Santa Catarina para dar continuidade a minha pesquisa de doutorado. Para aqueles que ainda não sabem,  sou bioarqueóloga e me especializei em remanescentes humanos cremados e como tal eu passo uma quantidade enorme de tempo observando e pensando sobre ossos queimados (para mais informações ver a nossa publicação sobre ossos queimados). Inevitavelmente, isso significa que eu frequentemente estou no laboratório, mas durante essa viagem eu consegui revisitar alguns locais incríveis nas terras altas.

Escrevi anteriormente um post sobre alguns aspectos do meu projeto de doutorado que envolvem os remanescentes cremados associados aos grupos Jê do Sul, mas em resumo, existem evidências que apontam que a cremação foi uma prática funerária importante para a sociedade Jê. Alguns desses grupos cremavam seus mortos e os depositavam em montículos em complexos anelares. Esses eram monumentos construídos em terra, e estão localizados em topos de morro e colinas ao longo das terras altas. Para o doutorado estou aplicando uma combinação de métodos quem envolvem diferentes áreas como a ciência forense, a química, a bioarqueologia e a arqueologia digital, para analisar os ossos queimados procedentes principalmente do Abreu e Garcia, o qual foi escavado e está sendo estudado como parte do projeto Jê Landscapes.

Por isso, passei várias semanas no GRUPEP, UNISUL analisando ossos recentemente escavados. Observando aspectos como idade, sexo, evidências patológicas, trauma e aspectos tafonômicos. Registrando assim o perfil bioarqueológico desses indivíduos, além de ter utilizado diferentes dispositivos analíticos portáteis para coletar dados primários microscópicos. Aproveitei também a oportunidade para encontrar com a minha supervisora brasileira Professora Sheila Mendonça. Tivemos ótimas conversas e ela compartilhou experiências de pesquisa muito úteis.

In the lab refitting fragments of burned bone at GRUPEP

No Laboratório remontando remanescentes humanos cremados – GRUPEP

Os arqueólogos não ficam apenas no laboratório! Parte do tempo passamos em campo. Nós conseguimos alugar uma Renault Duster em Tubarão para viajar para as terras altas e revistar o sítio Abreu e Garcia (que também é hoje em dia uma vinícola) e a região de Urubici. Incluindo o Avencal e outros locais espetaculares, como o Morro da Igreja e a Serra do Corvo Branco (mais sobre abaixo).

Viagem ao Abreu e Garcia

Partimos cedo para o Abreu e Garcia porque havíamos concordado em participar de um passeio turístico que iria acontecer a tarde na vinícola. A rodovia que leva as terras altas passa no caminho pela incrível Serra do Rio do Rastro. Após seis horas de viajem, chegamos a estrada de chão que fica ao lado da BR-282, atravessamos o Rio Caveiras por uma ponte feita de concreto que corta o rio, e dirigimos pelas pequenas comunidades da região.

Serra do Rio do Rastro

Serra do Rio do Rastro (by Otávio Nogueira licenced CC BY 2.0)

Chegamos a tempo para dar uma palestra improvisada para o grupo sobre o sítio arqueológico e sua importância. Os visitantes ficaram muito entusiasmados com a explicação sobre as práticas funerárias e sobre os nossos resultados do projeto. O sítio fica em um platô e tem uma ampla vista panorâmica. É composto por dois conjuntos anelares com montículos e estão alinhados em um eixo sudeste-noroeste de maneira similar a outros sítios na região. O conjunto anelar mais a leste é o menor dos dois, e tem apenas um montículo. Já o conjunto anelar mais a oeste apresenta tanto um montículo central como um montículo secundário.

Como mencionei, estes sítios são associados com as práticas funerárias dos Jê do sul, e uma série de depósitos cremados secundários foram escavados no Abreu e Garcia entre 2014 e 2015. A paisagem também apresenta qualidades fenomenológicas, por exemplo, a presença desse sítio em um local de elevada altitude proporciona condições para o fenômeno de inversão das nuvens que é particularmente bonito pois nos passa a impressão de estarmos não apenas rodeados como também acima das nuvens.

Explaining the funerary practice of cremation by southern Jê groups at Abreu and Garcia

Explicando sobre a prática funerária da cremação realizada pelos grupos Jê do Sul no Abreu e Garcia


Fenomêno de inversão das nuvens no  Abreu e Garcia em 2015 (Priscilla Ulguim CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Depois visitamos as vinhas e participamos da degustação de vinhos com o grupo. Leonardo que é especialista em vinhos e também entusiástico da pesquisa arqueológica, gentilmente me presenteou com uma garrafa do novo espumante chamado Geo que foi inspirado no sítio arqueológico.

A sketch of the archaeological site on the label of the sparkling wine

Desenho do sítio arqueológico no rótulo do espumante

Urubici: Avencal and Morro da Igreja

No dia seguinte, visitamos a região de Urubici. Esta é uma área muito bonita, com um valioso património arqueológico e uma florescente indústria de ecoturismo. A primeira parada foi no Avencal I, um sítio arqueológico composto por um paredão de arenito. Onde diferentes painéis com gravuras rupestres apresentam formas geométricas, zoomorfas e antropomorfas gravadas na rocha. Esse sítio foi inicialmente pesquisado na década de 1960 e 1970 e mais recentemente foi estudado por Riris e Corteletti (2015). No momento a equipe do JLSB está realizando escavações no local. O cenário é lindo, na borda de um íngreme, vale arborizado, que leva até uma cascata incrível, que pode ser vista apenas à distância.

Cascata do Avencal Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Cascata do Avencal (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Engravings at Avencal I Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Gravuras no Avencal I (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Coletamos fotos para verificar a capacidade de diferentes dispositivos para image-based modelling usando SFM-MVS. Já havia aplicado este método em diferentes contextos das escavações com remanescentes cremados. E atualmente estou terminando um capítulo sobre a técnica e o registro in-situ de remanescentes humanos que deve ser publicado em um volume dedicado a métodos 3D da Elsevier. Foi ótimo poder também aplicar o método a gravuras rupestres de superfície, e a iluminação estava perfeita para a captura das imagens. Um dos modelos resultantes já está disponível no SketchFab.

A volta pela Serra do Corvo Branco

Antes de retornarmos a Tubarão conseguimos visitar também outros pontos turísticos de Urubici, incluindo o Morro da Igreja, um pico que fica a 1822 metros entre a Serra do Rio do Rastro e a Serra do Corvo Branco. Esse é um dos pontos mais frios do Brasil, e depois de um começo com visibilidade clara, uma forte neblina desceu e tivemos que reduzir a velocidade do carro para “caminhando”. Quando atingimos o limite da estrada para os civis em uma estação de comunicações da Força Aérea, a visibilidade era de entorno de um metro no máximo. Mesmo assim, a vista era notável.

Morro da Igreja in the fog

O Morro da Igreja com neblina (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Descemos em direção a Urubici, e para a viagem de volta a Tubarão escolhemos um atalho no mapa, que nos levou a atravessar a Serra do Corvo Branco, o que acabou sendo uma miniaventura por si só.

As névoas pelas quais passamos no Morro da Igreja continuaram a descer e à medida que subíamos à Serra do Corvo Branco, a tarde já terminava e a noite começou a cair. Depois de subirmos uma estrada de terra e passarmos pelo gado que estava na estrada, nos deparamos com uma trincheira bastante sinistra de mais ou menos 90m que cortava em duas a face de uma rocha. Essa trincheira com paredes imensas tinha em um lado do acostamento uma placa dizendo pista interrompida que parecia que tinha sido retirada da estrada. Naquele momento ficamos um pouco preocupados sobre o trajeto, mas como havíamos passado por outros carros no caminho decidimos seguir a diante.

Serra do Corvo Branco

Serra do Corvo Branco (by Willian Schneider licenced CC BY-SA 4.0)

Atravessamos a galeria que corta a rocha, e dirigimos até o inicio de uma estrada sinuosa que levava a uma descida vertical, notavelmente íngreme, em direção ao outro lado da serra. Se isso já não fosse impressionante, os próximos 30 km na SC-370 até Grão-Pará foram tensos e com trechos acidentados. Passamos apenas por alguns carros e motociclistas aventureiros. Havia chovido durante toda a noite anterior e a pista estava bastante embarrada, e quando a escuridão caiu mesmo, ficou claro que estávamos em uma situação de direção desafiadora e em superfícies que variaram de ruins a muito ruins. Não é preciso dizer que foi bom voltar para a estrada pavimentada em Rio Braço do Norte, e o carro claro precisou de uma boa limpeza no dia seguinte, mas tudo isso certamente apenas adicionou à nossa aventura.

Muddy Duster

Duster embarrada (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Agradeço a equipe do GRUPEP e a Professora Deisi por me acomodar e por me receberem sempre tão bem, é um grupo de pesquisa muito engajado e positivo. Agradeço também a Abreu & Garcia, em particular ao Leonardo por sempre receber os membros do nosso projeto, assim como a Universidade de Teesside e a CAPES e CNPQ pelo apoio com a pesquisa. Mais sobre o Paisagens Jê do Sul do Brasil – Je Landscapes of Southern Brazil Project aqui.

This is the Portuguese version of the article. Access the English version.

A trip to the highlands, a month in the lab: to Abreu and Garcia, Urubici and back

This year I swapped part of the European summer for the South American winter, travelling to Santa Catarina, Brazil as part of my doctoral research. For those of you who don’t already know, as a bioarchaeologist who specialises in cremated human remains, I spend an inordinate amount of time looking at and thinking about burned bones (for more see our recent burned bones publication). Inevitably, this means that I’m often in the lab, but during my trip I managed to return to some spectacular sites in the highlands too.

I’ve blogged before about some of my doctoral project on the cremated human remains from southern Jê sites but in summary, there is evidence indicating that cremation was a significant practice for southern Jê groups, who cremated at least some of their dead and deposited them in mound and enclosure complexes. These are earthwork monuments in the highlands which are often set at the tops of hills and plateaus. For my project I apply a mixture of methods from forensic science and chemistry, bioarchaeology and digital archaeology to analyse burned bone from a site called Abreu and Garcia, which we are excavating and studying as part of the Jê Landscapes of Southern Brazil project.

To this end, I spent several weeks at GRUPEP, UNISUL analysing recently excavated bone. I recorded aspects such as age, sex, disease, taphonomic effects and used portable analytical devices to collect microscopic primary data. I also took the opportunity to meet my Brazilian supervisor Professor Sheila Mendonça de Souza. We had some excellent conversations and she shared useful research experiences with me.

In the lab refitting fragments of burned bone at GRUPEP

In the lab refitting fragments of burned bone at GRUPEP

Archaeologists don’t just live in the lab though. We managed to hire a Renault Duster in Tubarão to travel back to the highlands and visit Abreu and Garcia (which also happens to be a vineyard) and the Urubici region. This included Avencal and spectacular locations like Morro da Igreja and Serra do Corvo Branco (more on that later).

Journey to Abreu and Garcia

We set out early for Abreu and Garcia as we had agreed to join a vineyard tour session running in the afternoon. Taking the road up into the highlands we ascended the amazing Serra do Rio do Rastro. After six hours we made our way to the dirt track leading off the BR-282, crossed the Rio Caveiras on a concrete slab bridge, and drove through the small hamlets of the area.

Serra do Rio do Rastro

Serra do Rio do Rastro (by Otávio Nogueira licenced CC BY 2.0)

We arrived just in time to give an impromptu talk to the tour group on the significance of the archaeological site. The visitors were fascinated by the explanation and our project results. The site occupies a plateau with broad panoramic views, comprising a pair of mound and enclosure complexes aligned on a southeast-northwest axis, which is similar to others across the region. The  eastern  complex  is  the  smaller  of  the  two,  with  a single  mound.  The western complex has both a central mound and smaller secondary mound.

As mentioned, these sites are associated with southern Jê funerary practices, and a series of secondary cremated deposits were recovered at Abreu and Garcia in 2014 and 2015. The site also has phenomological qualities, for example the elevated plateau location provides the conditions for cloud inversions which are particularly beautiful.

Explaining the funerary practice of cremation by southern Jê groups at Abreu and Garcia

Explaining the funerary practice of cremation by southern Jê groups at Abreu and Garcia



A cloud inversion at Abreu and Garcia in 2015 (Priscilla Ulguim CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0)

After descending from the plateau we toured the vineyard and tasted wines with the group. Leonardo, a wine expert who is enthusiastic about our research, kindly presented me with a bottle of a new sparkling wine inspired by the archaeological site, named Geo.

A sketch of the archaeological site on the label of the sparkling wine

A sketch of the archaeological site on the label of the sparkling wine

Urubici: Avencal and Morro da Igreja

The following day we visited the Urubici region. This is a beautiful area with a rich archaeological heritage and burgeoning ecotourism industry. We stopped by Avencal I, a cliff site with parietal art engraved in panels around a waterfall. The site itself was first recorded by archaeologists in the 1960s and 1970s and was more recently investigated by Riris and Corteletti in 2015. The JLSB team are currently carrying out excavations there. The setting is beautiful, on the edge of a steep-sided, wooded valley, which leads up to a spectacular cascading waterfall, just visible in the distance.

Cascata do Avencal Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Cascata do Avencal (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Engravings at Avencal I Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Engravings at Avencal I (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

We collected photos to verify the capability of various devices for image-based modelling using SFM-MVS. I have already applied this method to excavation contexts containing cremated human remains and I am currently finishing a chapter on the technique for recording in-situ human remains which is to be published in a forthcoming volume from Elsevier. It was great to also be able to apply the method to surface engravings, and the lighting was perfect for image capture. One of the resulting models is now available on SketchFab.

Return via Serra do Corvo Branco

Before we returned to Tubarão we managed to see other sights of Urubici, including the Morro da Igreja, a 1822 m peak between the Serra do Rio do Rastro and Serra do Corvo Branco. This is one of the coldest spots in Brazil, and after a clear start, a heavy fog descended and we slowed to a crawling pace. By the time we reached the limit of the road for civilians, at an Air Force communications station, visibility was a metre at best. Nevertheless, it was still remarkable.

Morro da Igreja in the fog

Morro da Igreja in the fog (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

We descended towards Urubici, and for the return trip to Tubarão found a shortcut on the map. It happened to take us via the Serra do Corvo Branco, which turned out to be a mini-adventure in itself. As they say, Brazil is not for beginners.

The mists that we had driven through on the Morro da Igreja continued to descend as we climbed to the Serra do Corvo Branco, already late in the afternoon and with dusk falling. After we scaled the dirt track and navigated past cattle in the road we were greeted with the rather ominous trench cut 90 m into the rock face. This trench had immense walls and an old sign which appeared to have been removed, with the words Pista Interrompida. At that moment the route became a little worrying, but as we had already passed other cars on the way up we decided to push on.

Serra do Corvo Branco

Serra do Corvo Branco (by Willian Schneider licenced CC BY-SA 4.0)

Emerging from the rock-cut passage we made our way down the winding road which navigates the awesomely steep vertical descent of the mountain face on the other side. If this was impressive, the next 30 km on the SC-370 to Grão-Pará were boneshaking and bumpy. We passed only a few cars and some adventurous quad bikers in the dark. Given it had rained all of the previous night the track was muddy, and as darkness fell, it was clear we were in for a challenging drive over surfaces that ranged from bad to very bad. Needless to say, it was good to get back onto a paved road at Rio Braço do Norte and the car needed a deep clean the next day, but this certainly added to the adventure.

Muddy Duster

Muddy Duster (Priscilla Ulguim CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

My thanks go to the team at GRUPEP and Professor Deisi for hosting me once again so kindly, they always receive me very warmly and are a very positive and engaged research group. I also thank Abreu Garcia, particularly Leonardo for hosting our project, as well as Teesside University and CAPES for support with the research. You can find out more about the Jê Landscapes of Southern Brazil project here.

Departing to Another Land: Slavery and Death at the Pretos Novos Cemetery, Rio de Janeiro

In this series of posts we’ll explore the history and archaeology of Pretos Novos, a nineteenth century cemetery site for newly arrived captives of the transatlantic slave trade, which was accidentally rediscovered in Rio de Janeiro in the 1990s. This first post provides some context and history regarding the cemetery.


‘Stamos em pleno mar…Era um sonho dantesco…Legiões de homens negros…Horrendos a dançar’

For almost 400 years Brazil remained at the very heart of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Millions of children, adolescents and adults were forcibly transported from Africa to Brazil aboard the infamous slave ships or tumbeiros. The intention was to fulfil demand for forced labour at sugar cane, coffee and cotton plantations, in the country’s mines, and in domestic households.

The ships arriving in Brazil principally bore the Brazilian or Portuguese flag. Unlike many other regions implicated in the slave trade, a significant number of these voyages started directly from their final destination, the ports of Brazil. They returned from Africa packed, often with 200 to 400 people held captive on board (Slave Voyages).


‘Section of a Slave Ship’ from Walsh’s Notices of Brazil (via NYPL)

Those individuals arriving in Brazil were from parts of West Central Africa, the Bight of Benin, and to a lesser extent, Southeastern Africa and the Indian Ocean. On the main route, from Central and West Africa, ships would sail close to the line of the Equator. After a journey of 45 to 60 days they disembarked at the ports of Amazonia, Bahia, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and the southeastern seaboard of Brazil.*

Brazil was the main destination, but many of those captured and taken aboard did not survive the harsh conditions of the Atlantic crossing. Data from Slave Voyages shows that between 1574 and 1856 approximately three and a half million individuals embarked on ships whose principle point of disembarkation would be Brazil. However, closer to three million arrived in Brazilian ports, with an average death rate of 8.7% during the voyage.

The ocean crossing was known as the middle passage, and formed one of the most awful parts of these voyages. The journeys to Brazil were in part facilitated by this passage in comparison to other American destinations, averaging 44.5 days for all the crossings made over the entire period. Even so, this still represented at least a month on the high sea, piled up and restrained in wooden racks. Human beings were treated as commodities, held alongside goods and animals.

If they survived the terrible conditions and diseases which rapidly spread across the ship, they would have ahead an even longer journey to endure – the formation of Brazilian society – a journey of prejudice, resistance and struggle for equality, and one which has had a deep and lasting influence on modern Brazilian culture.


For a time the main port of arrival in Rio de Janeiro was located at Praça XV, where the slave markets and alfândega were based. These were called mercados de carne or ‘meat markets’, and were famous for their inhuman conditions. For several decades these acted as lodgings for new arrivals as they waited to be sold. Conditions could be just as bad as those inside of the tumbeiros. Many of the new arrivals were already debilitated from the voyage, affected by diseases such as diarrhoea, measles, scurvy, flu and tuberculosis, and those who were not could have contracted these at the market itself. The newly arrived sick were taken to Lazareto, far from the city centre, for quarantine. Estimates indicate that around 4% of the approximate three million who arrived died (Slave Voyages).


Rugendas’ ‘Negros novos’ (via NYPL)

The transfer of the Portuguese court to Brazil, and the arrival of the royal family in Rio de Janeiro in 1808 marked a new milestone for the slave trade in Brazil. The new empire’s capital urgently required improved infrastructure, including better buildings, roads and communications networks. This significantly increased the demand for slaves, creating a social paradox where the slaves were needed, but not wanted to be seen. The arrival of the royal family also drove the desire to ‘civilise’ the city (Abreu 1987, 32). The slave markets were associated with disease and social outrage, and thus presented a threat to the progress of society, and as such the presence of one in the Paço region was no longer deemed acceptable. According to the historian Cláudio Honorato a ‘national civilisation project’ was carried out, which resulted in the transfer of the market to the outskirts of the city to a place called Valongo (Haag 2011).

Robert Walsh visited Brazil in 1828 and described the sights of Valongo in “Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829” (1832):

“The poor creatures are exposed for sale like any other commodity…buying a dog or mule…They were all doomed to remain on the spot, like sheep in a pen, till they were sold; they have no apartment to retire to, no bed to repose on, no covering to protect them; they sit naked all day, and lie naked all night, on the bare boards, or benches, where we saw them exhibited.”

Maria Graham, a British writer who also visited Valongo and described:

“rows of young creatures … sitting, their heads shaved, their bodies emaciated, and the marks of recent itch upon their skins…If I could, I would appeal to their masters, to those who buy, and to those who sell, and implore them to think of the evils slavery brings.”

These markets were chosen by artists such the painters Jean-Baptiste Debret and Johann Moritz Rugendas (Rugendas 1989) to portray XIX century Brazilian society; and so we have pictoral evidence.

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Debret’s ‘Boutique de la Rue du Val-Longo’ 1834 – 1839 (via NYPL)


‘…And before I’d be a slave…I’d be buried in my grave…’

The transfer of the market from Praça XV to Valongo was not limited to simply an open space, but included a range of functions such as a cemetery. In 1769 a cemetery was created on the orders of Luís Melo Siva Mascarenhas or Marquis Lavradio.

The cemetery was called ‘Pretos Novos’, meaning ‘new blacks’, referring to both their newly arrived status – ‘novos’, indicating a social condition and status of transition. This was no ordinary cemetery, as the main function of Pretos Novos was to receive the dead bodies of recently arrived captives who died at the market. Around 95% of the individuals buried there were newly arrived Africans (Pereira 2007).

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Map of the location of Valongo and Pretos Novos (marked ‘x’ and with arrow) in modern Rio de Janeiro and on a map of 1812 (via OpenStreetMap contributors and Anais da Biblioteca Nacional)

Pereira, in his book on the cemetery (2007), notes that the location was not casually chosen: being beyond the city walls, and close to Valongo. The construction of the market and the cemetery delimited Valongo as the exclusive location for such activities, and prohibited the burial of ‘pretos novos’ in the traditional cemeteries of Santa Casa and Largo de Santa Rita (Cavalcanti 2005, 49). The traveller G. W. Freireyss described the cemetery, and the lack of respect for the bodies in his accounts of the early nineteenth century (1906):

“In the middle of this space [50 fathoms] was much land which, here and there, the remains of corpses were uncovered by the rain that had carried away the earth, and there were still many corpses on the floor that had not yet been buried”

They were just wrapped with a belt, tied above the head and below the feet. Probably they proceed to burial only once a week, as the bodies easily decompose and the bad odour is overpowering. Finally we came to a better understanding of burning time to time a lot of corpses semi-decomposed.

On the bottom side is all open, divided the backyard of a neighbouring property by a fence mats, and the other two sides with very low brick wall, and in the middle a small cross of very old rough sticks, and the land of the field upturned and littered with badly burned bones.”

According to Freireyss, there was some figment of religious aspect to the proceedings in 1814, however, this may have ceased in the 1820s when a judge visited and commented that he did not see men dressed as priests at the site (Medeiros 2012).

In Brazil the peak of the slave trade, was between 1826 and 1830, when close to 300,000 individuals arrived in Brazil. This coincides with the burial of approximately 6,119 individuals at Pretos Novos in just the six years between 1824 and 1830, according to death records from the Santa Rita parish (Pereira 2007). Over the 61 year lifespan of the cemetery it is estimated that between twenty to thirty thousand people were buried there (Museus do Rio).

The use of the cemetery for this specific purpose represents the strong distinction of social class in life and death in eighteenth and nineteenth century Brazil, creating a separation and demonstrating inequality between the dead and the dead (Pereira 2007, 19). From this perspective the cemetery has been compared by Medeiros (2012 ,182), to “places of symbolic reproduction of the social universe” (Urbain 1978), with the bones of slaves left jumbled, and burned with different degrees of exposure to fire and the elements.

At the end of the 1820s, a new concern for urban planning and hygiene drove a series of transformations of the urban area and new municipal ordinances regulating public places in an attempt to reduce the number of epidemics sweeping the city. The city sought to create cemeteries beyond the urban area to remove odours and ‘miasmas’ (Medeiros 2012, 180). At this time Pretos Novos became the focus of increasing complaints regarding the open display of cadavers and the strong odour of death and decomposition, exacerbated by the hot and humid climate (in Pereira 2007, 79).

The trade was already under pressure at this point, and the cemetery was most likely closed from 1830. After this the numbers of slaves entering Brazil were greatly reduced following the creation of the 1831 Feijó-Barbacena law which prohibited the arrival of new slaves in Brazil. Between 1831 and 1835 fewer people were trafficked into Brazil than in the preceding years, as 25,651 arrived, although this was followed by a subsequent short boom in trading which broke regulations until 1860. The market at Valongo was abandoned, and as the urban grid of Rio expanded during the second half of the nineteenth century the cemetery was covered and obscured, and eventually the location was lost.

From this point until the nineties, the cemetery lived on only in documents and historical accounts. In 1996, a couple in the Gamboa neighbourhood decided to refurbish their nineteenth century house at nº 36, Rua Pedro Ernesto (Machado 2006). As construction commenced, workers began to expose human bones and teeth. The owners decided to report the finds to the General Department of Cultural Heritage and the José Bonifácio Centre (Vargas et al. 2001).

Following an archaeological assessment, a team spent about two months excavating thousands of human bone fragments and other remains including ceramics and metal (Carvalho et al. 2001). Since these discoveries a range of research has been conducted on the cemetery site, indicating that the area was smaller than anticipated from documentation (Tavares 2012).

The unique archaeological potential of the Pretos Novos cemetery is unquestionable. The broad range of cultural material recovered from the site includes pipes, dices and magic or religious objects. The majority of the skeletal remains are still on site. The analysis of the remains found to date, have and will continue to reveal a great deal of information regarding ethnic origins, demographic data, health status and diet of the individuals (e.g. Bastos et al. 2011; Mendonça de Souza et al. 2012). This is possible through the contributions from different disciplines, including archaeology, history, geography, ethnobiology and genetics among others. The findings from these fields are enabling the reconstruction of a much more detailed picture about the slave trade in Brazil. The cemetery provides important information regarding the stories of the individuals involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and their interactions. These will be further explored in our next post on bioarchaeological studies of the remains.


*during the eighteenth and nineteenth century Rio Grande do Sul state would became a key area for the maintenance of the slave system in Brazil due to the development of the Charque and the rise of Charqueadas, this region is know today in academia as “Pampa Negro” or Black Grasslands, a subject for another day.



Abreu, M. A. 1987. A evolução urbana do Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: IPLANRIO/ZAHAR.

Bastos, M. Q. R. Mendonça de Souza, S. M. F. Santos, R. V.  Cook, D. C. Rodrigues-Carvalho, C. 2011. Da África ao Cemitério dos Pretos Novos, Rio de Janeiro: um Estudo sobre as Origens dos Escravos a Partir da Análise dos Isótopos de Estrôncio no Esmalte Dentário. Revista de Arqueología 24: 68–97.

Cavalcanti, N. O. 2005. Desembarques. In Florentino, N. (ed.) Tráfico, cativeiro e liberdade. Rio de Janeiro, século XVII-XX. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira.

Carvalho, E. Vargas, C. Machado, L. C. Campos, G. N. 2001. O cemitério dos Pretos Novos. Uma abordagem interdisciplinar. Anais do Sociedade de Arqueologia Brasileira. Arqueologia no novo milênio: XI congresso de arqueologia da Sociedade de Arqueologia Brasileira, Rio de Janeiro, 2001.

Freireyss, G. W. 1906. Viagem ao interior do Brazil nos annos de 1814—1815. Revista do Instituto Historico e Geographico de São Paulo 11: 158-228.

Haag, c. 2011. Ossos de que falam (bones that talk). Revista Pesquisa FAPESP 190: 24-29. [Accessed 10 May 2016]

Lavradio, M. do. 1842. Relatório. Revista do IHGB 4.

Medeiros, J. C. D. 2012. Germinal: morte e sepultamento de pretos novos no Rio de Janeiro do século XIX. Habitus 10(2): 173-185.

Mendonça de Souza, S. M. F. Santos, R. V. Cook, D. C. Bastos, R. 2012. Cemitério dos Pretos Novos: Técnicas modernas ajudam a compreender questões de escravidão. Ciência Hoje 291: 22–27.

Phillips, T. 2011. Brazilian slave port ruins unearthed in Rio’s Olympic facelift. The Guardian [Accessed 10 May 2016].

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Tavares, R. B. 2012. Cemitério dos Pretos Novos no Rio de Janeiro, século XIX: Uma tentativa de delimitação espacial. Unpublished Masters Dissertation: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro.

Urbain, J. D. 1978. La societé de conservation: étude semiologique dês cimetiéres de l’occident. Paris: Payot.

Vargas, C. Carvalho, E. Machado, L. C. Campos, G. N. 2001. Africanos novos na Gamboa. Um portal arqueológico. Rio de Janeiro, Prefeitura da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, Secretaria das Culturas, Arquivo Geral da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro, Departamento Geral de Patrimônio Cultural.

Walsh, R. F. 1830. Notices of Brazil in 1828 and 1829. London: F. Westley and A. H. Davis [Accessed 10 May 2016]

Semana dos Povos Indígenas, Jogos e Antropologia Digital: Huni Kuin


Vivemos em uma era digital, na qual os jogos digitais constituem uma parte cada vez maior da nossa cultura. De fato, tem se afirmado que o século XXI será definido pelos jogos.

“Os jogos são máquinas de entradas e saídas que são habitadas, manipuladas e exploradas” (Zimmerman 2014, 20)

Eles têm sido o foco de estudos antropológicos, mas cada vez mais jogos de videogames são desenvolvidos tendo a antropologia e a arqueologia como temática principal. Um dos benefícios citados é a capacidade que os jogos possuem de envolver uma maior audiência na sua discussão, desenvolvimento e compreensão. No Brasil, os videogames não são ainda utilizados de forma mais extensiva como em outras partes do mundo, mas existem algumas exceções. Uma delas é Huni Kuin: Os Caminhos da Jiboia, que será lançado no mesmo período em que ocorre a Semana Indígena. O jogo apresenta uma ótima oportunidade para discutir a interseção de eventos culturais, o compromisso e envolvimento através dos jogos de videogame.

Em Abril, entre uma série de datas comemorativas, o Brasil realiza a Semana Indígena. Se você ainda não ouviu falar sobre, trata-se de uma semana votada para a discussão, conscientização dos direitos e políticas dos povos indígenas. Durante essa semana, milhares de escolas no país planejam e realizam atividades que culminam no chamado Dia do Índio no dia 19 de Abril. Essas atividades estão em grande parte relacionadas a temática História e Cultura Afro-Brasileira e Indígena, que fazem parte do plano de ensino e currículo nacional, apoiada pela lei (11.645/08). Para alguns alunos, essa constituí a primeira experiência e a primeira discussão envolvendo sociedades indígenas.

Apesar de ser uma iniciativa válida, em processo de desenvolvimento, a realização dessas atividades, por vezes, constituí também uma ocasião para a perpetuação de equívocos e replicação de estereótipos. Por exemplo, o que algumas pessoas compreendem e ou percebem como “um índio de verdade”. Deixando assim de explorar assuntos relevantes de forma crítica e ou promover um maior engajamento com a audiência. Aqui uma oportunidade fantástica, para se discutir e compreender melhor a cosmologia e as crenças dos povos indígenas assim como sua importância, é perdida.

Seria ótimo então poder utilizar um método interativo que apoiasse uma melhor compreensão dessas sociedades. Um método que promovesse a identificação, empatia e que melhorasse as relações com as sociedades brasileiras indígenas e a sua cultura. Isso é particularmente importante dada a discriminação histórica e atual contra as comunidades e seus integrantes.

Mas, e se os professores pudessem proporcionar uma atividade envolvente e divertida que reconhecesse a importância da agência de indivíduos – na qual o aluno desempenha um papel ativo- no intercâmbio dos conhecimentos e memórias dos povos indígenas? Jogos de videogame oferecem uma possibilidade de proporcionarmos uma experiência imersiva e interativa em um formato digital e atraente. Então, por que não organizar uma sessão de jogos para ajudar? Os jogos podem ter uma variedade de benefícios e podem contribuir para uma discussão mais crítica e menos simplista sobre a cosmologia indígena, modos de vida e arte. E quem não gosta de um bom jogo? Se você é um educador ou apenas uma pessoa interessada procurando por ideias de atividades para a Semana Indígena, então Huni Kuin é uma ótima escolha.


Huni Kuin: Yube Baitana ou Huni Kuin: Os Caminhos da Jiboia, é um jogo de RPG 2D para PC e Mac que resulta de uma colaboração notável entre os grupos Kaxinawá do Rio Jordão, Acre, antropólogos e programadores. O antropólogo Guilherme Meneses e seus colegas propuseram o jogo como uma forma de comunicar canções, mitos e o ponto de vista dos Kaxinawá, criando assim um dispositivo para compartilhar essas histórias e ao mesmo tempo trazer também benefícios para as comunidades.

Durante um sonho, a jiboia Yube concebe um casal de gêmeo: o menino é um caçador, e a menina uma artesã, ambos herdam os poderes especiais da jiboia. Os dois personagens viajam através de cinco histórias que são baseadas em elementos do Shenipabu Miyui – histórias dos antepassados – do grupo Kaxinawá: Yube Nawa Aĩbu, Siriani, Shumani, Kuĩ Dume Teneni e Huã Karu Yuxibu. Durante o jogo, eles ganham as habilidades de seus antepassados, animais, plantas e espíritos. Se comunicam com seres da floresta visíveis e invisíveis – yuxibu. Os irmãos passam então por vários desafios para se tornarem um curador – Mukaya – e uma mestra em artes e desenhos – Kene. Uma vez que que os desafios são ultrapassados eles se tornam um Huni Kuin,- seres humanos verdadeiros na língua Hatxã Kuin.

Huni Kuin foi desenvolvido através de uma série de workshops com cerca de 45 Kaxinawá de 32 aldeias no estado do Acre. Gravações de músicas, histórias, desenhos do ambiente, animais, plantas e da cultura material incluindo roupas e pinturas corporais, foram utilizados como materiais de suporte para o desenvolvimento do jogo. Essa escolha e colaboração significa que a representação dos Kaxinawá é bastante diferente de algumas imagens de jogo de videogame, onde, por vezes, os indígenas são estereotipados. Por exemplo, a aldeia é ilustrada com base em como as terras indígenas são hoje, e não em uma versão idealizada.

As histórias não são representações precisas dos mitos Kaxinawá, mas sim combinações de diferentes aspectos dessas histórias e mitos. A trilha sonora também combina diferentes elementos da música tradicional. Desta forma, os elementos cosmológicos estão representados, e as ideias são expressadas e explicadas, mas em novas formas ou formas remixadas criadas com os Kaxinawá.

O projeto é um grande exemplo de colaboração, retornando mais do que um jogo com imagens e gravações dos Kaxinawá. A comunidade aprendeu a filmar e gravar em workshops, e obteve acesso a recursos como painéis solares e computadores.


Os jogos apresentam um grande potencial para os educadores e alunos, não apenas durante a Semana Indígena, e não apenas nas escolas, mas também para ser discutido e jogado nas universidades. Professores de biologia e zooarqueologia podem fazer uso do jogo para explorar assuntos de biogeografia e relações humano-ambiente na América do Sul. Outros podem usá-lo para elaborar aulas sobre mitologia ameríndia, ritual, e ou para explicar o perspectivismo ameríndio.

No Brasil, as humanidades digitais e o desenvolvimento de jogos de videogame por antropólogos e arqueólogos ainda é muito pouco explorado. Séries semelhante a jogos como Huni Kuin foram desenvolvidas para diferentes grupos indígenas e apresentam efeitos visuais impressionantes.

Um exemplo vem do Alasca, onde Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa) foi lançado em 2014 pelo Conselho Tribal Cook Inlet em associação com a E-Line Media. O jogo parece ótimo visualmente e ganhou pelo menos seis grandes prêmios, além de ser baseado em histórias Iñupiaq. Outros esforços incluem Mulaka, desenvolvido em colaboração com os Raramuri da Sierra Madre, no México.

Esses são bons exemplos de trabalhos colaborativos entre pesquisadores, comunidades locais e programadores. Em outras áreas como arqueologia, discussões atuais ressaltam a falta de engajamento entre acadêmicos e programadores em projetos que envolvem e discutem o passado.

No entanto, o envolvimento e os resultados subsequentes dependem do contexto do projeto. No caso de Huni Kuin e outros mencionados acima, esses foram planejados por pesquisadores e grupos locais. Em alguns exemplos relacionados com a arqueologia, os projetos não são necessariamente voltados a uma investigação acadêmica. Outro contraste é o conceito de “propriedade” do passado. Os Kaxinawá possuem uma voz hoje, e representam a sua cultura no presente. Para os jogos que lidam com sociedades de milhares de anos atrás, a “propriedade” e ou pertencimento pode não ser tão claro – nesses casos quem teria a resposta certa? Sou tendenciosa a visão apresentada pela arqueologia, mas no final, ambas são interpretações.


Huni Kuin é uma ótima maneira de envolver as pessoas e alunos e ajudar no processo de reflexão sobre outras culturas, além de ser o resultado de uma importante colaboração. Em última análise, este tipo de trabalho pode auxiliar a quebrar o preconceito e diminuir a violência contra indígenas.

O futuro do nosso património reside na colaboração e intercâmbio, assim como na identificação e empatia gerada por essa troca. Como pesquisadores e educadores nosso papel é também apoiar e facilitar esse entendimento para os alunos e colegas, o mais cedo possível, para que em um futuro próximo todos possamos valorizar e respeitar a cultura de todos.

Durante essa Semana Indígena reflita sobre a sua prática pedagógica, aceite o desafio, deixe os desenhos, as maquetes e as fantasias simplistas de lado, proponha uma atividade mais crítica e esclarecedora, conheça e jogue Huni Kuin.

O lançamento do jogo esta previsto para essa Sexta-Feira 15 de Abril; é gratuito e estará disponível em Hatxã Kuin, Português, Espanhol e Inglês. Para mais informações consulte o site Huni Kuin.


Zimmerman, E. 2014. Manifesto for a Ludic Century. Em Walz, S. P. e Deterding, S. (orgs.). The Gameful World: Approaches, Issues, Applications. London: MIT Press, 19-22.

This is the Portuguese version of the article. Access the English version.

Semana Indígena, Games and Digital Anthropology: Huni Kuin


We live in the digital age, and one where digital games form an ever-greater part of popular culture. Indeed, it has been claimed that the twenty-first century will be defined by games.

“games are machines of inputs and outputs that are inhabited, manipulated, and explored” (Zimmerman 2014, 20)

They have been the focus of anthropological study, but increasingly games are made with anthropology and archaeology as their subjects. One of the often cited benefits of this development is the ability to engage a broader audience in discussion and develop their understanding. In Brazil, games have not been used as extensively in this area as in other parts of the world, but there are some exceptions. One is Huni Kuin: Os caminhos da Jiboia, which will be released at the same time as the Brazilian Semana Indígena this year. It presents a great opportunity to discuss the intersection of cultural events and engagement through games.

Each April, Brazil hosts the Semana Indígena. If you’ve not heard about it, this is a week dedicated to indigenous people. It promotes discussion of indigenous rights and politics, and education about indigenous groups. During the week thousands of schools in Brazil plan activities, culminating on 19 April with Dia do Índio or Indian Day. These activities form part of the theme of História e Cultura Afro-Brasileira e Indígena within the national curriculum, supported by law (11.645/08). For some students, it is their first introduction to Amerindian societies.

This is a great initiative, and one that continues to improve, but on occasion activities can perpetuate misconceptions or stereotypes of perceived “real” Amerindians, or not engage and explore relevant issues. Here a fantastic opportunity to provide insight into Amerindian beliefs and cosmology is lost.

It would be great to have an interactive method which supports a better understanding of those groups. This promotes identification, empathy and better relations with indigenous Brazilian groups and their culture. It is particularly important given the historic and current discrimination against people from these communities.

But, what if we could provide an engaging, fun, and interactive activity which acknowledges individual agency, one in which the student plays a role in the exchange of indigenous knowledge and memories? Video games represent a way to provide an immersive and interactive experience in an appealing digital form. So why not use a gaming session to help? Games can have a variety of benefits and might contribute to a more critical discussion about indigenous cosmology, ways of life and art. And who doesn’t like a good video game? So if you are a teacher or just an enthusiastic person looking for ideas for Semana Indígena activities, then Huni Kuin might be a great choice.

Huni Kuin – A collaborative gaming project

Huni Kuin: os caminhos da Jiboia or Huni Kuin: The Pathways of the Anaconda is a 2D RPG game for PC and Mac which results from a remarkable collaboration between the Kaxinawá groups of Rio Jordão, Acre state, anthropologists and game developers. The anthropologist Guilherme Meneses and colleagues proposed the game as a way to communicate songs, myths, and views of the Kaxinawá, providing a device to share their stories while also bringing benefits to the contributing communities.

In the game, during a dream, an anaconda conceives of a twin brother and sister: the boy is a hunter, and the girl is an artisan, and they inherit the snake’s special powers. The two travel through five stories which are based on elements from the Shenipabu Miyui – stories of the ancestors – of the Kaxinawá group: Yube Nawa Aĩbu, Siriani, Shumani, Kuĩ Dume Teneni and Huã Karu Yuxibu. During the journey, they gain abilities of their ancestors, animals, plants, and spirits. They communicate with visible and invisible forest beings – yuxibu. They go through several challenges to become a healer – mukaya – and master in arts and drawings – kene. Once they pass all the challenges they become Huni Kuin, which means true people in the Hatxã Kuin language.

Huni Kuin was developed through a series of workshops with around 45 Kaxinawá people from 32 villages in Acre state. Recordings of songs, stories, drawings of their environment and material culture, including patterns, clothes, animals and plants, were used in game development. This collaboration means that the representation of the Kaxinawá is quite different from sometimes stereotyped game images. For example, the village is depicted based on how the settlements look today, not an idealised version.

These stories are not precise representations of Kaxinawá myths, but combinations of story variants. The songs also combine different elements of traditional music. In this way, cosmological elements are represented, and ideas are explained, but in new or remixed forms created with the Kaxinawá.

The project is a great example of collaboration, returning more than a game with stories, images, and recordings of the Kaxinawá. The local community learnt how to film and record, and obtained access to a range of useful resources.

The Potential of Anthropological Games

This has great potential for teachers and students for activities in Semana Indígena and beyond. Biology teachers could use the game to explore biogeography, animals and human-environmental interactions in South America. Others could use it to develop classes around Amerindian mythology, ritual, and Amerindian Perspectivism.

In Brazil, the digital humanities and development of video games by anthropologists and archaeologists are still under-explored. Similar series of games like Huni Kuin for different indigenous groups have been undertaken to stunning effect. One example comes from Alaska, where Never Alone (Kisima Inŋitchuŋa) was released in 2014 by the Cook Inlet Tribal Council in association with E-Line Media. The game looks great and has won at least six major awards and is based on Iñupiaq stories. Other efforts include Mulaka, developed in collaboration with the Raramuri of the Sierra Madre in Mexico.

These are good examples of collaborative works between researchers, local communities, and developers. In other areas such as archaeology, current discussions note the lack of engagement between academics and developers on some projects regarding the past. However, engagement and subsequent outcomes depend on the project context. In the case of Huni Kuin and others noted above, the projects were planned by researchers and local people. In some of the examples related to archaeology, the projects are not necessarily research-driven. Another contrast is the concept of ‘ownership’ of the past. The Kaxinawá have a voice today, and represent their culture in the present. For games which deal with societies thousands of years ago ownership may not be as clear – in those cases who has the right answer? I am biased towards an archaeologist’s view, but in the end, both are interpretations.


Huni Kuin is a great way to engage people to understand another culture and results from an important collaborative work. Ultimately, this type of work can help break prejudice and diminish violence towards Amerindian individuals. The future of our heritage lies in collaboration and exchange, which can facilitate identification and empathy. We should support this understanding from an early stage so in the near future all respect and value each other’s culture.

This Semana Indígena take the challenge, leave the sketches behind and try Huni Kuin. The game is released on Friday 15 April; it is free and will be available in Hatxã Kuin, Portuguese, Spanish, and English. For more information see the Huni Kuin site.


Zimmerman, E. 2014. Manifesto for a Ludic Century. In Walz, S. P. and Deterding, S. (eds.). The Gameful World: Approaches, Issues, Applications. London: MIT Press, 19-22.

This is the English version of the article. Access the Portuguese version.