The Atlantic coast

The Brazilian coastline stretches for almost 8,000 kilometres, lining the Atlantic Ocean with expanses of white dunes and beaches in the far north and with Atlantic forest along the south-eastern coast.

Gateways for the arrival of European settlers, colonial ports such as Rio de Janeiro and the original capital city of Salvador were built in the sixteenth century and allowed for the exportation of oil, beef, rubber, and many other desirable sub-tropical commodities, while also receiving African slaves, brought over to work on the plantations.

Several of Brazil’s coastal cities held World Cup matches, including Fortaleza, Recife and Porto Alegre. Rio de Janeiro, host of the World Cup Final, was the venue for Brazil’s first national match a century ago against English team Exeter City FC. The match was arranged when the Exeter team’s ship docked for supplies in the port of Rio de Janeiro on its way to Argentina for their summer tour.

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    Pottery vessel; Marajó culture; 10th to 15th century  

    Pottery vessel

    In the state of Para, where the Amazon river meets the Atlantic coast, lies Marajó, the world’s largest fluvial island. As a liminal location, the characteristic motifs on Marajó’s Pre-Columbian pottery (seen here) belong neither to the coast or the interior.

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    Jangada model; Upper Amazon; 20th century (?) 

    ‘Jangada’ model

    This is a model of a ‘jangada’, a traditional Brazilian fishing boat which is still in use along some sections of the coast today. Indigenous peoples did not use the sail before the arrival of Europeans but instead made elaborate canoes from large hollowed out trees and boats from timbers lashed together.

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    Basketry bag; Bahia/West Africa; 19th century 

    Basketry bag

    During colonial times, up to 3 million Africans were brought to Brazil to work as slaves on sugar and coffee plantations, and in mines. This basketry bag was brought over to Bahia from West Africa by one of these slaves.

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    Ceramic figurines; Recife; 1950  

    Ceramic figurines

    These colourful souvenir figurines were collected and donated to the museum by a British man who worked for an oil and chemicals company in Brazil in the 1940s. Today, fossil fuels are one of Brazil’s largest industries, offering great impetus to the country’s growing economy on the one hand and posing enormous environmental challenges on the other.