Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Southern > Southern Maritime Hunters or Canoe Hunters


It is not clear how the first maritime hunters or canoeist groups arrived in these lands in the extreme South of Chile. One theory suggests that the area was populated from Chiloé Island, while another proposes that inland hunters came to the coast by land and adapted to the coastal environment in those few places where the steppes extend as far as the channels of the Pacific Ocean. However, it is known that the first evidence of this way of life in Southern Chile dates back to around 6000 years ago, with the emergence of clear cultural differences between the canoe peoples and the hunters who wandered the eastern steppes further inland. Despite some similarities between early sites where groups adapted to the marine environment, significant variations existed across different regions of this vast territory, suggesting cultural differences between groups. These differences grew over time, giving rise to the different ethnic groups that inhabited Chile’s extreme south at the time of first contact with Europeans: the Chonos in Chiloé and the Guaitecas Islands, the Alacalufe and their subgroup the Kawashkar in the archipelagos situated around the Gulf of Penas and the Strait of Magellan, and the Yámana on the southern shore of the same strait and the Beagle Channel.