When did people get to Brazil?
How did they get there?
The first people to reach Brazil were following the Atlantic coastline south from Central America. It’s also possible, though not very likely, that other people reached South America by boat from Australia or Indonesia.
Fishing and shellfish in Brazil
As they followed the coast south with their dogs, these people lived mostly on seaweed, shellfish, shrimp, and fish, which they preserved by fermenting them in baskets lined with clay so they would hold salty water. This is the same way people preserved fish in Japan, and possibly these people brought their baskets and their love of pickled fish with them from northern Asia.
Early use of pottery in Brazil
By around 5500 BC, Brazilians were making pottery jars to pickle their fish in. They probably pickled their fish in seawater – which is totally a thing – in order to preserve them. Probably they boiled the seawater to evaporate some of the water, first, to make the brine a little saltier than seawater is.
The beginnings of farming in Brazil
Slowly Brazilians spread out along the banks of the Amazon river, moving away from the coast further inland. Some towns along the Amazon had tens of thousands of houses. And it wasn’t all fish, all the time: these people also ate peanuts, cacao beans, and yuca roots (a starchy root like a potato) and leaves, among other things.
At first they were gathering these foods in the wild. But by about 2800 BC, Brazilians were probably farming along the Atlantic coast. Mmm, peanuts and chocolate: two great tastes that go great together! (It’s not an accident that we have Reeses’ Cups, in other words.)
What about the Tupi people?
The Tupi expand south and east
Other Tupi people conquered the big towns along the coast of Brazil and settled there. Many of the conquered people, who we call the Tapuias, had to move further inland, away from the coast, though some stayed along the coast too.
Life in Brazil in the Middle Ages
These big Tupi and Tapuia towns, and their rulers, sometimes got into wars. They may have been fighting over who got to live on the coast where the fish were, and who had to live further inland.
But people in Brazil also kept on eating a lot of seafood and seaweed, making huge piles of seashells along the coast. That’s where things stood when the first European explorers arrived from Portugal in April of the year 1500 AD.