Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino

Cultures > Southern > Terrestrial hunters of the far south of Chile

Social organization

These inland hunters were organized as nomadic family groups, with labor divided by sex and by age. They began to occupy more permanent encampments at the start of the Christian era, forming larger family groups in which certain individuals with special skills probably enjoyed an enhanced social status. Thus, around the time of contact with Europeans—and largely through the influence of the Mapuche peoples of Northern Patagonia—a tribal type of social organization became prevalent, with high status individuals capable of organizing people into groups. Body painting played an important role in social differentiation, particularly during rituals, with different designs used to denote an individual’s sex and age.