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The largest museum in Natal.
Address: Av. Hermes da Fonseca, 1398 - Tirol . Phones: (84) 32122795 - 32154192
Opening hours: Tuesdays - Fridays: 08:00 - 10:30 and 14:00 - 16:30
Saturdays and Sundays: 13:00 - 17:00. Closed on Mondays.
Admission: Adults: R$ 2,00 - Students and children: R$ 1,00
There is a large, free, easy to access parking yard.

Opened in 1960, the museum is maintained by the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte; official web site is Very diversified, the museum has exhibitions of Zoology, Anthropology, Archeology, Speleology and more.
There is a guided tour, but in Portuguese only; a folder is distributed on entrance, but also in Portuguese only. The photos below depict a good part of the Museum:

Zoology: skeletons of several animals, including an elephant, a kind of whale which eats nothing bigger than an apple (both of these animals are not Brazilian), a human being, horse, dog and more. In another room, many different kinds of seashells.

Fossiles and footprints: rich archeologic sites have been found in the States of Paraíba and Rio Grande do Norte. These pics show footprints of dinosaurs which were brought from Sousa, Paraíba, by researchers of the Museum.

Pre-historic pieces. The drawings are reproduction of actual paintings found in the region of Apodi, west of Rio Grande do Norte. The clay pieces were used to burn the bodies of the dead. There are also many pieces which date back to the paleolithic and neolithic eras.

Indian culture. It looks like the Potiguares, who used to live in the State (people born in Rio Grande do Norte are called potiguares), have gone away; there are some objects produced by indians, like cocares (adornment for the head, used to distinguish hierarchy), bows and arrows, etc. At the central yard, another interesting legacy of the Brazilian indians (most commonly in the south of Brazil): the sambaqui; a sambaqui was a space where indians dumped their wastes; over time, only the most solid materials (particularly the shells of oysters and similars) remained. By analysing the layers of sambaquis which were deposited over the centuries, archeologists can discover what happened to the successive generations of indians; a model of a sambaqui, with a transversal cut to show the interiors, was mounted in the museum.

Speleology. A replica of the Caverna do Olho D´Água da Escada (Cave of Water Eye) was mounted on the Museum. The actual cave is in the city of Baraúnas, about 300 km west of Natal. Even the sand on the floor, which is composed mostly of feces of bats, was brought from the real cave. Warning: there are a few live bats (not dangerous, according to the guide) living in the caves of the museum.

Sugar and leather. A room in the museum describes the two most important activities of Rio Grande do Norte in past centuries: production of sugar and of leather. There are a few pieces (shoes, hats, coats) made of leather. About sugar, there is a reproduction of a "engenho", showing all the process, from the crushing of the cane to the preparation of the sugar. The engenho (the black wooden engine) was powered either by animals or by slaves; it looks like the most common was to use blind slaves, because only blindness could stop the diziness caused by the circular movements. The cane cane juice was then conveyed to large tanks, and from the tanks to large pans; the juice was cooked until the juice evaporated and the sugar was left.

A pre-historic environment. A large room reproduces what Rio Grande do Norte would be in pre-historic times. The animals painted on the walls (a small dinosaur and a saber tiger) lived indeed in the State; the small mountain in the second picture shows a place where animals used to drink water; it seems that many animals died here, and the place was very rich for archeologists; this mountain is in the city of São Rafael, interior of the State. Unfortunately, as explained by the museum (pic to the right), the site was completely covered by water, for the building of a dam; one of the richest archeological site in Brazil was lost forever.

Stuffed animals. In the same room of the pre-historic environment, there are a few animals which live today in the cities of Rio Grande do Norte. Photos above show a bicho-preguiça ("lazy animal"; I will put the name in English, as soon as I learn it), an ostrich, a kind of aardvark (ant eater) and a sagui (small monkey which still abounds in Brazilian forests); the museum shows also armadillos, snakes, a fox and others.

Religious pieces. Many catholic pieces, some from the Barroc period (17th and 18th centuries); there are also several pieces made by famous regional sculptors Chico Santeiro and sisters Ana Dantas and Luzia Dantas. In the next room, pieces of Afro-Brazilian religion.

Excellent: a three dimensional map of Rio Grande do Norte. It shows the coast, the rivers, the mountain chains and some landmarks. You can see the position of Natal (marked by the beacon of Mãe Luíza and the Forte dos Reis Magos), the beacons of Galinhos and Touros, the platforms of Petrobrás.

Other interesting things in the museum: a replica of a mine of an ore called xelita; this mine used to be so big that the city of Currais Novos (today, of the largest in Rio Grande do Norte) was developed around the mine; during the World War II, the American industry was the biggest importer; today, the mine is closed. Replica of the only volcano in Brazil; the extinguished volcano is near the city of Lajes, distant about 130 km from Natal. A replica of a jangada, the typical rustic raft used by Brazilian fishers in the past. A replica of a "casa de taipa", a house made of clay; very dangerous, because insects live in the holes and gaps of the clay, and come out at night looking for human blood; this kind of house is still very common in the poorer parts of Brazil.

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