Length: 20.000 cm
Width: 5.000 cm
Gift of Francis Brent
AOA Ethno +3556
Africa, Oceania, Americas
Yámana (Yaghan), 19th century
From Tierra del Fuego
Tool made from a mussel shell
This scraping tool is composed of three elements: a blade made from a mussel shell that has a razor sharp edge, a smooth pebble to act as a handle and a leather cord to bind them together and provide a sure grip. The tool would have been used to cut and scrape animal skins, among other functions.
The rich marine fauna in the seas around the archipelago of Tierra del Fuego provided the Yámana (Yaghan) and other groups of native Fuegians with food. In this case it also provided the basic materials for making tools. Shellfish were gathered as food from along the shoreline at low tide. The Yámana people in particular were heavily dependent on the sea and, at the time of first contact with Europeans in the sixteenth century, had developed a distinctive maritime culture based around the 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)