Bone barking tool

Selk'nam (Ona), 19th century AD
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.

Find in the collection online

More information


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)


Length: 21.000 cm

Museum number

AOA Ethno Q79.Am27


Probably the gift of Hugh Cuming


Find in the collection online

Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore