Length: 21.000 cm
Probably the gift of Hugh Cuming
AOA Ethno Q79.Am27
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Bone barking tool
Selk'nam (Ona), 19th century
From Tierra del Fuego
Wood working tool
Vast forests of the southern beech tree (Nothofagus betuloides) dominate the environment in the west of Tierra del Fuego ('Land of Fire'), a group of islands off the extreme south of South America. The wood and bark of the beech offered essential resources for local people, who showed great ingenuity in exploiting them to make huts, canoes, vessels, weapons and walkways through the forest.
This tool is made from the leg bone of a guanaco (Lama guanicoe, a small camelid). It was used as a wedge by women to remove bark from trees. The sharp end would have been used to work loose sheets of bark or to fashion the wood itself.
The British Museum has a number of Fuegian objects that have been manufactured from different types of bark, including bark buckets and a model canoe.
C. McEwan, L.A. Borrero and A Prieto (eds), Patagonia: natural history, pr (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
S.K. Lothrop, 'The Indians of Tierra del Fuego' in Contributions from the Museum, Vol. X (New York, Heye Foundation, 1928)