|View from inside the Milodon Cave, which we visited
on the way to Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.|
The discovery here of a well-preserved milodon (giant sloth) in 1895 received a great deal of attention in England and locally.
|Inside the cave, we posed with a statue|
of a milodon. The early humans aren't
much acknowledged in the cave.
The early Patagonians and Fuegians (natives of Tierra del Fuego, the southern islands that are also part of Patagonia) were descendants of the early humans who walked across the frozen Bering Straight and over many generations spread throughout the Americas. We didn't learn much about these humans between prehistory and the arrival of the first European voyagers, starting with Magellan, and a few others including Captain Cook. I'm not sure that much is known about them.
As Europeans began to arrive in greater numbers and colonize the area during the 19th century, they found several important tribal groups living in Tierra del Fuego. One voyage to that area that's still much remembered is that of the Beagle in 1830. Charles Darwin was onboard as a companion to the ship's captain, Robert FitzRoy. Darwin's journal of their experience in Tierra del Fuego contains quite a lot of observation of the local people.
|Model of the ship Beagle of Darwin's visit. (Ushuaia Museum)|
Two tribal groups in Tierra del Fuego were the Selk'nam and the Yàmana, whom I learned about in the Maritime Museum in Ushuaia, Argentina, and other sources. Some of the territory where they lived is now considered uninhabitable, and makes up the vast and fascinating natural spaces that we enjoyed seeing. I suppose this illustrates how tough these local tribes were, at least until they encountered Europeans!
|1890's photos of Fuegians. (Ushuaia Museum)|
"According to present studies, the Yàmana diet was based on sea lions. This was their main source of energy: both for proteins and calories. They also ate mushrooms, wild fruit such as Calafate, fish, whale meat -- when one ran aground on the beach -- and shellfish." (Museum documentation)
|Beached whales, like this one that we photographed, are still frequent.|
Even more upsetting is the fate of the Selk'nam, who were the victims of an intentional genocide. English sheep farmers, who had taken over the area, received a bounty for the slaughter of Selk'nam tribes people. Horrible to say, the bounty was paid when the killers turned in hands, ears, or skulls of their victims.
|Tierra del Fuego: a hard place to live.|