Maquiné, the cradle of Brazilian paleonthology

Paleontology was introduced in the country by Danish naturalist Peter Wilhelm Lund, that arrived in the country in the 1820s. In the following decades, he visited at least 200 caves in the region of Minas Gerais and described over a hundred species, most of them extinct, such as the saber tooth tiger. Two of his exploits were particularly important: he identified human vestiges of an individual that lived 12,000 years ago, later named Homem de Lagoa Santa, that obviously coexisted with extinct animals; and he described the beauties of one of the greatest caves in the country, Maquiné. But Lund also diligently sent all his finds to Copenhagen and published his works exclusively in Danish – it took almost one  century for them to be published in Portuguese.

Lund explored Maquiné cave in 1834, where he found human remnants and petrified animals. It is an amazing speleological complex in Cordisburgo, 120 kilometers from the capital of Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte. It has seven huge rooms, connected by hallways – in total,  it has a depth of 18 meters depth and an extension of 650 meters. For millennia the water sculpted the calcium carbonate, producing formats that remind you of bats, bears, candelabra, a huge wedding cake and the atomic mushroom. You can also find a few 6,000 old wall paintings. It has nice pathways and good artificial lighting that allow very easy access.

All these grate photos were made by Mario Luongo Júnior, via Flickr.