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1. Introduction

This article reports on fieldwork carried out at Avencal 1, a pre-Columbian rock art site located in Urubici, Santa Catarina state, Brazil (Figure 1). Data collection and analysis was carried out using a computational photographic technique, Polynomial Texture Mapping (hereafter PTM), a novel technique in the archaeological study of rock art in South America. This technique is part of a larger family of methods known as Reflectance Transformation Imaging (RTI). PTM produces an objective and non-invasive record of the reflectance properties of a given surface, and has a history of application to rock art (Mudge et al. 2006; Duffy 2010; Mudge et al. 2011 Duffy et al. 2013), allowing superior access to surface shape and fine detail. Avencal 1 is part of a rich record of art that exists throughout the highlands and adjacent Atlantic coast of southern Brazil (Schmitz 1987; Da Silva 2001; Gaspar 2003; Comerlato 2005). The rock art sites identified in these areas possess a wide range of different styles and motifs, including anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, as well as circular, helical, amorphous, rectangular, triangular and linear shapes. We evaluate the application of PTM to this site and discuss the potential for application to a larger sample of locations. Our study focuses on a series of panels that exemplify these attributes. In the present case, the entire site is composed of engraved petroglyphs, some containing potential traces of black pigment. Painted pictographs are known to exist elsewhere in the macro-region (see Laming-Emperaire and Emperaire 1968; Piazza and Prous 1977; Prous 1994).

Figure 1
Figure 1: Location of Urubici in southern Brazil.

The original analysis of Avencal 1 was made in the first half of the 1960s (Piazza 1966), followed by a second one (Rohr 1971) half a decade later. The depiction of Avencal 1 and six additional sites in the valley of the Canoas River by Rohr is the most recognised and widely reproduced in the scholarly literature. Although these works were mainly descriptive in nature, later Da Silva (2001) contextualised the engravings within the symbolic repertoire of the southern proto-Jê. This was achieved by synthesising archaeological data, ethnoarchaeological research, and ethnohistorical sources on the Kaingang and Xokleng, the modern-day speakers of Jê stock in southern Brazil (Da Silva 2001). This work, in particular, establishes parallels between body paint, archaeological ceramic decoration and rock art motifs to hypothesise continuity in cosmology and symbolic repertoire between modern southern Jê groups and their antecedents. For this reason, Avencal 1 is one of the best locations in which to study the wide graphic assemblage of southern proto-Jê people, drawing both on pottery decoration and rock art, as well as body paint of modern groups. The southern proto-Jê are identified by a shared material culture, known as the Taquara-Itararé tradition, and diverse types of archaeological sites, such as pit-house villages, open-air sites, mortuary/ceremonial mounds and enclosure complexes, collective burials in caves and petroglyphs (Beber 2005; Corteletti 2013; Iriarte et al. 2013). This culture has a well-documented presence in eastern Santa Catarina (Corteletti 2012; 2013; Schmitz et al. 2010; 2013) and adjacent areas of the coast and interior of southern Brazil dating to between 2200 and 0 uncal years BP (Schmitz et al. 2002; Parellada 2005; Saldanha 2005; Copé 2006; Araujo 2007; DeBlasis et al. 2007; Corteletti 2008; Iriarte et al. 2008; 2013).

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