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Ancient Man in Chile

Nature volume 140, page 538 (25 September 1937) | Download Citation



AN expedition to Chile of the American Museum of Natural History, New York, extending over a period of two and a half years, is reported to have discovered a succession of stone age industries claimed to be of greater antiquity than any previously known in South America. More than four thousand stone implements, it is stated by Science Service, Washington, D.C., have been collected by Mr. and Mrs. Junius Bird, on behalf of the Museum, from two cave sites, Fell's Cave and Palli Aike Cave on the banks of the Rio Chico in southern Chile, near the Straits of Magellan. In the former of the two caves was a stratified succession of five cultures, of which the earliest included tanged spear-points, unique in South America, associated with the bones of the extinct horse and giant ground sloth. This culture was covered by a rockfall, while at Palli Aike, twenty miles away, the oldest culture period closes with a deposit of volcanic ash. Some considerable time after the fall of rock, Fell's Cave was again occupied by man. With the artefacts of this period are associated at first bones of the horse and ground sloth, and later of foxes, of which one form is extinct, and birds. The implements are cruder than those of the early stage. In this and the preceding period the animal bones have been split for the extraction of marrow and show the effects of fire. The succeeding culture introduces the bola, of which the carefully grooved weights have been found with the stone gravers used to make the grooves. Arrow points and knives appear with the bola in the fourth culture, which is dated tentatively at 2000 B.C. on comparative evidence. The last occupants of the cave, who show no affinity with their predecessors, were the possessors of a culture in many ways comparable with that of the Ona of Tierra del Fuego, who, up to a few years ago, used stone arrow-points similar to those found in the cave. The cave seems to have been abandoned before the Spanish conquest, as no bones of the horse then introduced into America have been found in it.

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