Gruta do Maquiné

Lapa Nova de Maquiné - Maquine Cave

Useful Information

Location: Lagoa Santa, state of Minas Gerais. 3 hours drive from Belo Horizonte.
Peter Lund / IEF State Natural Monument - Alberto Ramos Highway (MG 231) KM 7
Rua São José (LMG 754) 1 km, turn left at Travessa Francisco Xavier de Souza, turn left at Rua Idelfonso Mascarenhas, turn right at Rodovia Alberto Ramos (MG 231), 5 km to the Peter Lund / IEF State Natural Monument.
(19° 7'29.81"S, 44°21'11.65"W)
Open: Cave: all year daily 8:30-16:30.
Museum: all year daily 8-16:30.
Fee: Cave: Adults BRL 25, Children BRL 15, Students BRL 15, Seniors BRL 15.
Museum: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=650 m, VR=18 m.
Guided tours: self guided, L=440 m. V=47,000/a [2000]
Bibliography: J. Reinhardt<7b> (1888): De brazilianske Knoglehuler og de i dem forekommende Dyrelevninger, [The Brazilian bone caves and the animal remains found there]. E Museo Lundii 1: 1-56. (Danish)
M. Degerbøl<7b> (1945): P. W. Lund og hans Udforskning af Braziliens forhistoriske Dyreverden, [P.W.L. and his investigation of Brazil's prehistoric animal world]. Dyr i Natur og Museum, Aarbog for Universitets Zoologiske Museum, pp. 111-134. (Danish)
T. Hatting<7b> (1980): Peter Wilhelm Lund, Naturens Verden 1980: 179-196. (Danish)
Address: Gruta do Maquiné, Rururbana, Via Alberto Ramos, MG 231, km 7, 35.780-000 Cordisburgo, Tel: 31-715-1078. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1825 discovered by the farmer Joaquim Maria do Maquiné.
1834 explored by Peter Wilhelm Lund.
1839 Lund discovers the giant sloth Nothrotherium maquinense.
1843 Lund discovers the Homem da Lagoa Santa (Lagoa Santa man).
1844 Lund suddenly stopped the work in the caves, alleging lack of resources to finance the excavations.
1868 Lund returned to Cordisburgo to show the Duke of Saxe who visited the country, the cave.
1967 first cave in Brazil which was developed and opened to to the public as a show cave.
1980 Sumidouro State Park created.


Gruta do Maquiné was discovered by the farmer Joaquim Maria do Maquiné in 1825. The cave was named after him. Farmers and residents of the region extracted saltpeter, the raw material needed for the manufacture of gunpowder. But it was first explored by the Danish zoologist Peter Wilhelm Lund in 1834. His discoveries made the cave famous.

Peter Wilhelm Lund (*1801 Copenhagen, ✝1880 Lagoa Santa) had settled in Lagoa Santa for health reasons, when he heard about the cave. He excavated numerous bones, which are today on display in the Zoological Museum at the University of Copenhagen. The remains of a saber-toothed cat Smilodon populator, giant sloth, and 3 m tall birds were discovered. The cave is considered the cradle of Brazilian paleontology. The bones were described by himself, the Norwegian painter Peter Andreas Brandt illustrated his discoveries. He was also assisted by the Danish botanist Eugen Warming from 1839 to 1859. Lund discovered in 1843 the bones of of 30 human beings, a prehistoric man named the Homem da Lagoa Santa (Lagoa Santa man). They used the cave entrance as shelter and left enigmatic drawings.

The 10,000 years old human remains started a discussion about the origin of the indigenous people of America. The co-existence of long-extinct species with humans was in frontal opposition to Cuvier's catastrophic theory. In 1844 Lund suddenly stopped the work in the caves, alleging lack of resources to finance the excavations. Subsequently he sent the bones, the descriptions and drawings to the Zoological Museum and investigation was continued there. Lund donated his huge collection to the King and the people of Denmark. If he stopped the excavations because of the lack of resources to finance the excavations, as he stated, because of his fragile health condition, or because the human remains contradicted Cuvier's catastrophic theory, is unknown. He continued to exchange letters with the curators of his collections in Copenhagen and received the visits of young European naturalists and officials. In 1868 Lund returned to Cordisburgo to show the cave to the Herzog von Sachsen-Meiningen (Duke of Saxe) who visited the country.

The developed part of the cave has seven huge chambers with quite exceptional speleothems. After the excavations it was well known and continually visited by enthusiasts from Brazil and abroad. But the cave was not developed, there was only a trampled footpath and only the fact that it is almost horizontal made those visits possible. Its popularity was the reason why the cave received significant investments from the State Government in 1967 for the development as a show cave. When it was opened to the public in the same year it was the first show cave of Brazil.

In the nearby town Cordisburgo the Museu da Gruta do Maquiné (Maquiné Cave Museum) was opened to the public. It contains an exhibition about the fossils which were discovered in the cave and in various other sites in the area. Most important are the Megatherium or giant ground sloth Nothrotherium maquinense which was discovered by Lund in 1839. The elephant-sized genus of ground sloths lived from the Early Pliocene through the end of the Pleistocene. The medium-sized ground sloth which fed on xerophytic leaves and fruits is another important exhibit. The sloth is of great importance for the area, there is even a memorial of a sloth in the city square. The museum has an area of 400 m² and is free.

This is a very large dead-end cave with an entrance high on a hillside. The cave contains large stalagmite deposits and extensive rimstone dams, which are now inactive and have been extensively, modified by condensation corrosion. The terminal chamber is enormous. There are ceiling pockets and pits in the ceiling, suggesting a phreatic origin, but there is no clear evidence as to exactly how this cave formed. A souvenir shop, paths and lighting are installed.

Text by Tony Oldham (2002). With kind permission.