In 1993, the Park became part of Iphan's Archaeological, Ethnographic and Landscape List. Around 400 archaeological sites were located in the listed area. Most of them contain panels of cave paintings and engravings of great aesthetic and archaeological value. The area is part of one of Brazil's 63 national parks and is among the ten that protect the caatinga, comprising almost 40% of the protected caatinga in the country.
With an area of approximately 130 thousand hectares, it is located in the southeast of the State of Piauí and occupies part of the municipalities of São Raimundo Nonato, João Costa, Brejo do Piauí and Coronel José Dias. The distance that separates it from the state capital, Teresina, is 530 kilometers. A Permanent Preservation Area (APP) with a radius of ten kilometers was created around it, which constitutes a supplementary protection belt. As a result, the sites are protected and intact in terms of their physical preservation and understanding.
Located in the morphoclimatic domain of the caatingas, in a border region between two large geological formations – the Maranhão-Piauí sedimentary basin and the peripheral depression of the São Francisco river –, with diverse vegetation and relief and landscapes of surprising beauty, it has privileged observation points of valleys, mountains and plains. It also presents one of the most relevant sets of archaeological sites in the Americas, which have provided important data and traces for a general review of established theories about the entry of man into the American continent.
Area with the highest concentration of prehistoric sites on the American continent and Cultural Heritage of Humanity - UNESCO, in addition to having the oldest examples of rock art on the continent. It contains the largest number of cave paintings in the world. Scientific studies confirm that Serra da Capivara was densely populated in prehistoric periods. The artifacts found present traces of man that may be 50,000 years old, the oldest records in America.
The Serra da Capivara National Park is located in the State of Piauí, in the Southeast of the State. There are currently around 400 cataloged archaeological sites where lithic artefacts, human skeletons and cave paintings have been found. At the Toca do Boqueirão da Pedra Furada site, 63 carbon-14 (C-14) dates allowed the establishment of a chrono-stratigraphic column that goes from 59,000 to 5,000 years BP. Numerous cave paintings can be found in the area. Red ocher used to draw on rocks was found in layers dating between 17,000 and 25,000 years BP. Recent work on the pedestal of Boqueirão da Pedra Furada and the open-air site near Vale da Pedra Furada has produced further evidence for human occupation extending back more than 20,000 years, an argument supported by a series of C-14 dates. and OSL (optically stimulated luminescence), and by the technical analysis of the stone tool set.
In the rock shelter of Toca da Tira Peia, the results bring new evidence of a human presence in Northeast Brazil as early as 20,000 BC. The ages obtained, using the optically stimulated luminescence technique, range from 22,000 to 3,500 years before the present. Huge lithic workshops where men obtained raw materials and chipped them to make tools were found in the northern region in 2002. In one of them, thousands of lithic remains were in the ground over a surface of approximately 25,000 m2. Along 14 trails and 64 archaeological sites open to visitors, we find treasures, such as the oldest pieces of ceramics in the Americas, dating back 8,960 years, discovered in Toca do Sítio do Meio.
Cave paintings are the most abundant, notable and spectacular manifestation left by the prehistoric populations that lived in the National Park area, since ancient times. The three sites that presented the oldest dates obtained in the National Park area are rock shelters. A rock shelter is formed by the action of erosion, which, acting at the base of the rock walls, disintegrates the lower part of the walls, causing a protrusion to form at the top. This works like a roof that protects the ground beneath it from the sun and rain. As erosion progresses, the ledge becomes increasingly pronounced until, under the action of gravity, it fractures and collapses.
The Serra da Capivara National Park is located in the Caatinga morphoclimatic domain, but has many Cerrado transition forests on its northern limit. The vegetation is made up of weak but extremely branched shrubs, with short, hard branches, with thorny appearances. The trunk of the trees is smooth, the leaves are small and the foliage is light and allows light to pass through. Herbaceous vegetation generally disappears outside of the rainy season. The park is also inhabited by the only known population of capuchin monkeys (Sapajus libidinosus) that habitually use stone and wooden tools to obtain food, in addition to using these objects for communication and threats. Although monkeys from other populations habitually use stone tools, they generally only use them for one purpose (e.g. breaking coconuts), with no other population having the variety and complexity of capuchin monkeys from Serra da Capivara in their use behavior. tools. Archaeological studies on the use of stones by the park's capuchin monkeys have revealed that this behavior has been occurring for at least 3000 years.
The Museum of American Man Foundation, when preparing the Park Management Plan, established a protection policy that includes the integration of the population surrounding the park into preservation actions. It implemented an economic and social development project that aims to educate and prepare communities so that they can participate in the job market that the park is creating in the region: infrastructure works, management and ecological and cultural tourism. The essential conditions for protecting the park are the eradication of poverty and hunger and the creation of new forms of alternative work. The Management Plan considers the current population as one of the elements of the ecosystems to be preserved and proposes that the National Park be the engine for creating economic resources, in an area where merciless drought limits agriculture and creation.
The Park's biggest attraction is the density and diversity of archaeological sites with prehistoric cave paintings and engravings. It is a true Archaeological Park with a cultural heritage of such richness that it was included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
For millennia, the walls of sites have been painted and engraved by human groups with different cultural characteristics that are reflected in the graphic choices that appear on the sites. Today, the visitor can observe a final graphic product that was created gradually and that, through its narrative, evokes facts of everyday life and ceremonial life in prehistoric times.
Added to this anthropological interest is the rare beauty and artistic quality of the works, which despite similar features to prehistoric cave paintings in France and Spain, rock shelters in Australia, present a typical profile, unique in the Northeast region of Brazil. .