Model canoe and equipment

Yámana (Yaghan), 19th century AD
From Tierra del Fuego

A fishing trip in miniature

It is likely that this model is of a Yámana (Yaghan) canoe. The Yámana people of Tierra del Fuego were especially dependent on the rich marine resources of the Pacific coast. The miniature canoe, less than a metre long, is made from the bark of the southern beech (Nothofagus betuloides) and contains miniature examples of the types of tools needed for a fishing trip: two paddles, a fishing basket, a rope and a basket.

The network of sea channels and coves of the island supported a maritime culture centred on the wood canoe. Fish, shellfish, seals and even dolphins and whales were all used for food; seal skins and otter pelts were used for clothing, and the bones of large sea mammals were used to fashion barbed harpoon heads. The extensive beech forests provided bark and wood for making huts, tools and for canoes such as this one.

The Yámana people and their culture are now all but gone, their way of life wiped out by the diseases and the social problems that characterized much of the contact between the Old World and the New.

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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)

P. Dransart, 'Fuegia basket or the life of a basketmaker in Tierra del Fuego' in Basketmakers: meaning and form, Monograph 5 (Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum, 1992)


Length: 85.000 cm (model canoe)
Width: 22.000 cm (model canoe)
Height: 7.000 cm (model basket)
Diameter: 6.000 cm (model basket)
Length: 85.000 cm (model canoe)
Height: 7.000 cm (model basket)
Width: 22.000 cm (model canoe)

Museum number

AOA Ethno +756a-c;AOA Ethno +757a-b;AOA Ethno +758


Collected by HMS Challenger Expedition
Gift of Sir Wyville Thomson


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