Fundação Renova

UNPRECEDENTED ARCHEOLOGICAL RESEARCH AT GOMES FREIRE SQUARE RESCUES THE HISTORY OF MARIANA (MG)

Published in: 03/07/2022

Mariana

Findings reveal more about the behavior, customs, religions and socioeconomic relationships of people from Mariana

During the regeneration works at Gomes Freire Square, in Mariana (MG), archaeologists identified historical fragments from the 18th century in an unpublished work. The discovered objects refer to crockery, inkwell glasses, iron nails and ceramic pipes, widely used by the enslaved population, at the beginning of the occupation of the city. A variety of coins from various periods were also recovered.

According to Danielle Lima, a specialist in archeology at the Renova Foundation, the findings allow us to tell a little more about the behavior, customs, religions and social and economic relations of the population during this period. “The site underwent several interventions, but there was never an archaeological survey there. This was a careful work, in which we were able to record, in detail, the fragments and all the structures found, thus evidencing the appropriation of the community in space, over time”, he says.

For the general coordinator of archaeological research in the requalification of Gomes Freire square, Ângelo Lima, even before the square went through the interventions to be transformed into a square, Mariana people used the space with intensity. The large amount and variety of traces found demonstrates this, such as fragments of current objects, such as glass bottles, metal pendants, marbles and porcelain doll heads, showing the occupation of the Garden by children and talking about the current use of the square.

“Fragments of soapstone, crockery and ceramic vessels, for example, show that, since the 18th century, people used the square in festive moments, to feed themselves. In addition to the broken bowls that remained as a testament to this practice, pork, beef and chicken bones also survived time. Every piece left, lost or forgotten in the square can now reconstruct a part of the history of Mariana and Minas Gerais”, says Ângelo Lima.

The fragments found will be catalogued, identified and delivered to the Museum of Natural Sciences at PUC Minas, in Belo Horizonte, where they will be kept and available for future research. The archaeological prospecting and monitoring work in the Garden, as it is called by people from Mariana, was allowed, monitored and approved by the National Institute of Historical and Artistic Heritage (Iphan).

Identified structures 

In addition to the historical fragments, the work carried out identified that the basement of the square is cut by stone galleries, possibly used to transport water to supply the houses and also the fountains in the historic center. The structures found were evidenced and recorded before being dismantled for the installation of new ones and, in some cases, it was possible to preserve them intact.

Improvements in the square 

Executed by the Renova Foundation, the renovation work on the square is a compensatory action, as a result of the damage caused by the Fundao dam collapse, and is part of the commitments signed between the Renova Foundation and the City to increase the region’s tourist and socioeconomic potential. The interventions respected the historical, symbolic and affective value of the place and allowed for improvements in accessibility, lighting and landscaping.

Collective discussions and popular participation were priorities in the decisions, from the conception of the project and also during the execution of the work, with public consultations, hearings and visits, in addition to the approval of all the entities involved, such as the National Institute of Historic and Artistic Heritage (Iphan) (Iphan) and City Hall.

Series about the square

To remember all the milestones and contribute to the preservation of cultural heritage, the Renova Foundation made a series of educational videos about Gomes Freire Square, available on YouTube. Six videos in animation format, with photos and documents, tell the story of the space, which, between 2020 and 2021, received infrastructure improvements, renovation and restoration, preserving its historical, symbolic and affective value.

The episodes go back to the 18th century, when the square housed the horses of people who were getting ready to enter or leave the old Vila do Carmo – currently Mariana. As a recreation space for residents and visitors, the place became known as Largo das Cavalhadas. The videos also show that, in 1900, the square took shape with a bed of geometric designs and the construction of the bandstand, at the same time it began to be called the Garden. Finally, the series talks about the current collective use of space by children, young people, the LGBTQIA+ public and tourists. Continue reading:

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