Rupestrian art of the Patagonia
Council of National Monuments
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Near Lake General Carrera, to the east of the southern Andes, there are manifestations of rupestrian art constituting the so-called "Patagonian Art Style", which is the oldest in South America. Its best known representations are those of hands, the scenes depicting guanacos, and the frets which, although ill preserved, reach up to some eaves of the pempas region stretching to the north of the Magallanes Strait. Due to the isolation of the Patagonia regarding cultural streams, the basic characteristics of the style remained unaltered for millenniums. Proof of it are the paintings of the rocky shelter Los Toldos in central Patagonia, over the Atlantic coast, which are nearly 10,000 years old. In later times, these artistic manifestations especially developed in east Patagonia, but also in the sub-Andean area to the west of the Chilean-Argentinian borderline, at some points where the conditions of the geographic environment of Chile maintain some pampa features. The most important samples of this art are found near the Ibanez River, towards the north bank of Lake General Carrera, and particularly in the Pedregoso River Cave, located about 20 kilometers to the south of the said lake and of the town of Chile Chico. The most defining motif is the imprint of hands, particularly of their negatives, also called "stenciled hands". These images are the result of blowing paints of different colors around the contour of the hand resting on the rocky surface. The more frequently employed colors are red, black, white and yellow, and also, in later times, green and blue. Hands painted in positive can also be found, but rarely. Superposition and variegation are frequent characteristics of these representations. Another component of the Patagonia art is the representation of scenes depicting the most tempting animals for the pampas' hunter: the guanaco and the South American ostrich -~5andu-, Hunting scenes, rows of guanacos at top speed, pregnant guanacos, grazing guanacos, or deformed guanacos of bent backs and extraordinarily long necks, are frequently represented, as can be appreciated in the Pedregoso River Cave. For the Ibanez River banks, a moving scene has been documented in which a female guanaco feeds her offspring among frets and labyrinths. These abstracts motifs have in the Ibanez River its southernmost point of distribution. Such ornamental motifs are very elaborated, and they may be analogous to those of the quillangos, decorated layers of guanaco skins, used by the tebuelches or aonikenk. These groups were excellent hunters of this animal, and they populated this territory when the Spaniards arrived. They probably were the last people to cultivate this art.