Where Does the South Begin? Social Variability at the Southern Top of the World

Juan A. Barceló, Ma. Florencia del Castillo, Laura Mameli, Eduardo Moreno and Blanca Videla


For thousands of years, hunter-gatherer societies from southern and central Patagonia inhabited a Subantarctic landscape. In this paper, we argue against the traditional assumption that these were simple societies. We examine population diversity from ecological, archaeological, and ethno-historical data sources, emphasizing the economic and social variability while considering social change through time. We end by analyzing processes of the development of social complexity and hierarchy in recent times, when the industrial world violently disarticulated those societies. All this evidence suggests levels of social variability and complexity archaeologists have not expected. The paper critically reviews traditional archaeological approaches and suggests new research lines that allow for a better understanding of social dynamics.

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