Guanaco Hunting among the Selk’nam
of Tierra del Fuego:
Poor Traceability of Temporary Halt
and Versatility of the Kill Site
At the extremity of the south-American continent, Tierra del Fuego was occupied during the whole of the Holocene by hunter-gatherers whose survival was based on the exploitation of a camelid that was never domesticated: the guanaco. The way of life of these foragers is known through travellers and ethnologists who observed them towards the end of the 19th century and during the first decades of the 20th century, shortly before their extinction. Guanaco hunting was the main and practically daily activity of this population, and it is frequently mentioned in these writings. Several tactics seem to have been used. But whether the hunt was individual or collective, the main concern of the hunter was generally to return each evening to the hut; in this way halts were reduced to a strict minimum. Only the halt at the end of the hunt seems to have had a real significance, but it could take on a number of profiles – kill site, butchery site (of several types), bivouac, etc. – when it did not transform into a new residential camp. In addition, the absence of means of storage made mass killing unnecessary, and these sites are therefore more difficult to identify than those of the collector groups.