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Patagonia: Natural History, Prehistory, and Ethnography at the Uttermost End of the Earth

Copyright Date: 1997
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Some fourteen to ten thousand years ago, as ice-caps shrank and glaciers retreated, the first bands of hunter-gatherers began to colonize the continental extremity of South America--"the uttermost end of the earth." Their arrival marked the culmination of humankind's epic journey to people the globe. Now they are extinct. This book tells their story.

    The book describes how these intrepid nomads confronted a hostile climate every bit as forbidding as ice-age Europe as they penetrated and settled the wilds of Fuego-Patagonia. Much later, sixteenth-century European voyagers encountered their descendants: the Aünikenk (southern Tehuelche), Selk'nam (Ona), Yámana (Yahgan), and Kawashekar (Alacaluf), living, as the Europeans saw it, in a state of savagery. The first contacts led to tales of a race of giants and, ever since, Patagonia has exerted a special hold on the European imagination. Tragically, by the mid-twentieth century, the last remnants of the indigenous way of life had disappeared for ever. The essays in this volume trace a largely unwritten history of human adaptation, survival, and eventual extinction. Accompanied by 110 striking photographs, they are published to accompany a major exhibition on Fuego-Patagonia at the Museum of Mankind, London.

    The contributors are Gillian Beer, Luis Alberto Borrero, Anne Chapman, Chalmers M. Clapperton, Andrew P. Currant, Jean-Paul Duviols, Mateo Martinic B., Robert D. McCulloch, Colin McEwan, Francisco Mena L., Alfredo Prieto, Jorge Rabassa, and Michael Taussig.

    Originally published in 1998.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6476-8
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-5)
  3. Foreword by the Ambassadors of Argentina and Chile to the United Kingdom
    (pp. 6-6)
    Rogelio Pfirter and Mario Artaza

    The Embassies of Argentina and Chile to the United Kingdom feel privileged to cooperate with the Museum of Mankind in supporting the exhibition about Patagonia. This joint sponsorship is a further expression of the strong feelings of interdependence and shared interest which now exist between both countries.

    Patagonia is a region of superlatives and extremes. It appears on maps as remote and mysterious, almost untouched by man, with immense pampas, wooded mountains, majestic Cordilleras, lakes of turquoise waters, fjords and colossal glaciers. Beaten remorselessly by cold winds from the south, with long and cruel winters, it was a harsh habitat...

  4. Introduction
    (pp. 7-8)
    Colin McEwan, Luis A. Borrero and Alfredo Prieto

    Even to many Chileans and Argentinians Patagonia can seem a wild, remote realm which has given rise to ambition, adventure, grief and folly in equal measure. How much more so viewed from afar by Europeans in the early days of exploration when distance helped magnify accounts of the native Patagonians to ‘giant’ proportions. For voyagers and settlers alike the region has exerted an enduring allure and spawned a colourful skein of tales which often blend fact and fiction. One part of the story, however, remains painfully incomplete and that is the largely unwritten history of its original inhabitants.

    The essays...

    (pp. 9-9)
    (pp. 10-10)
    (pp. 11-11)
  8. 1 The Natural Setting The Glacial and Post-Glacial Environmental History of Fuego-Patagonia
    (pp. 12-31)
    Robert D. McCulloch, Chalmers M. Clapperton, Jorge Rabassa and Andrew P. Currant

    Patagonia, including Tierra del Fuego, is a huge territory of more than 900,000 square kilometres, located between latitude 39° and 55° South in South America. The topography of southern Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego is dominated in the west and south by the rugged Andean mountain chain, and in the east by dissected plateaux giving way to low plains. The continuous marine waterway of the Estrecho de Magallanes separates Patagonia from Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, and the Canal Beagle cuts Tierra del Fuego from the outer islands (fig. 1). This framework largely reflects the tectonic structure of the...

  9. 2 The Peopling of Patagonia The First Human Occupation
    (pp. 32-45)
    Luis Alberto Borrero and Colin McEwan

    The human colonisation of the uttermost extremity of the Americas has always held a particular fascination for prehistorians. Viewed from a global perspective, this was the last major continental land mass to be settled by human beings. The earliest occupation of Patagonia carries obvious implications for understanding when and how North and South America were peopled. It gives a baseline against which all interpretations of the timing of man’s entry into the Americas must be compared, and which all calculations concerning the rate of dispersion of humans throughout both continents must take into account (fig. 17).

    For many years the...

  10. 3 Middle to Late Holocene Adaptations in Patagonia
    (pp. 46-59)
    Francisco Mena

    The southern extremity of South America has always been dominated by hunting-gathering economies. In fact there are few other regions of the world where such adaptations display comparable continuity and diversity. One consequence of this is that Patagonian prehistory cannot be easily subdivided into periods and phases following the traditional chronological framework widely used elsewhere in archaeology.

    Another important point is that although the first human settlers coexisted for a time with Pleistocene mammalian fauna that are now extinct, the characterisation of these bands as hunters specialised in the pursuit of big game is misleading. Nor can these adaptations be...

  11. 4 The Origins of Ethnographic Subsistence Patterns in Fuego-Patagonia
    (pp. 60-81)
    Luis Alberto Borrero

    Our present understanding of the cultural antecedents of ethnographic groups recognised in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego during the early years of European contact begs many questions. How old are the cultural configurations which came to be known as Aonikenk, Selk’nam, Kawéskar and Yámana? Were the natives observed by the first European sailors the direct descendants of the very first prehistoric colonisers of the region? Did the earliest attempts at colonisation succeed or fail over the long term? Is there evidence in the archaeological record of later attempts at colonisation, and did these prove viable? Is there anything to suggest...

  12. 5 The Great Ceremonies of the Selk’nam and the Yámana A Comparative Analysis
    (pp. 82-109)
    Anne Chapman

    The Selk’nam and the Haush were ‘foot people’, hunters of land mammals, while the Yámana were ‘canoe people’, mainly dependent on marine resources. Over the course of thousands of years their forebears had successfully adapted their subsistence patterns to exploit both the pampas grassland and the maritime environment.

    The Selk’nam men hunted guanaco, foxes and certain rodents which together comprised their main sources of sustenance, clothing and shelter. They also hunted birds, fished in the rivers and took advantage of the occasional beached whale. Toolmaking was another essential male occupation. The labour of the Selk’nam women involved care of the...

  13. 6 The Meeting of Two Cultures Indians and Colonists in the Magellan Region
    (pp. 110-126)
    Mateo Martinic B.

    The first sightings of strange phantoms floating on the sea like waterfowl must have filled the indigenous inhabitants of southern South America with a mixture of fear and curiosity. Their astonishment probably grew each time they glimpsed the beings aboard these leviathans, speaking loudly in incomprehensible tongues, clothed from head to foot and carrying sticks which spat fire amidst a thunderclap (fig. 75). This is how the European explorers and their ships must have appeared to the Indians during the early years of contact. The stark contrasts between these two different worlds would come to shape the character of all...

  14. 7 The Patagonian ‘Giants’
    (pp. 127-139)
    Jean-Paul Duviols

    The accounts of giants in Graeco-Roman mythology (Atlas, Antaeus, Typhon), in the Bible (Goliath) and in tales of chivalry all helped shape the imaginative universe of the first European voyagers who travelled great distances to unknown lands. Nevertheless, whole populations of giants occur only rarely in mythology. With the exception of the Cyclops, the phenomenon is generally confined to a particular individual. Once the myth is transposed to America, however, it starts to refer to an ethnic group in its totality – that of the nomadic Tehuelches of the eastern coast of present-day Patagonia. Setting their abnormality aside, the novelty of...

  15. 8 Travelling the Other Way Travel Narratives and Truth Claims
    (pp. 140-152)
    Gillian Beer

    All narratives take the reader or listener on a journey, and many of them tell the story of a journey too. Narratives are organised to move through time, to transport the reader, and to bring us home again, augmented by the experience and by the knowledge we have acquired. This narrative motion is enacted as much in non-fictional accounts, like the many records of nineteenth-century surveying voyages, as it is in theOdyssey,orGulliver’s Travels.The differences begin when we examine the freight the reader gains by the expedition.

    Almost all accounts of travels offer wonders, as well as...

  16. 9 Tierra del Fuego – Land of Fire, Land of Mimicry
    (pp. 153-172)
    Michael Taussig

    On 18 December 1832, in his diary of the voyage of theBeagle,the twenty-three-year-old naturalist Charles Darwin recorded the mythical scene of ‘almost first contact’ with the people of Tierra del Fuego.¹ TheBeaglehad sighted Fuegians lighting fires upon seeing the vessel two days earlier, ‘whether for the purpose of communicating the news or attracting our attention, we do not know’. Anchoring in the Bahía Buen Suceso he observed more Fuegians (the Haush) – ‘perched on a wild peak overhanging the sea and surrounded by woods. As we passed by they all sprang up and waving their cloaks of...

  17. 10 Patagonian Painted Cloaks An Ancient Puzzle
    (pp. 173-185)
    Alfredo Prieto

    The groups that occupied the vast steppes of eastern Patagonia were known as Tehuelche or Patagon. These comprised the Gununa’Kena and Mecharnúekenk (northern Tehuelche) and the Aónikenk (southern Tehuelche); the Río Santa Cruz marked the approximate boundary between the two groups.² From the Río Santa Cruz to the Estrecho de Magallanes there were once perhaps as many as 2,500–3,000 Aónikenk (fig. 106). By 1905 they had disappeared from the Magellanic region and nowadays just a few descendants survive in some of the more remote parts of Argentinian Patagonia (see chapter 9). They were known above all as terrestrial hunters,...

    (pp. 186-196)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 197-200)
    (pp. 200-200)