Dánae Fiore: Photographs as Artifacts Visual Archaeology and Archaeological Visibility of Indigenous Material Culture in Tierra del Fuego (Southern South America)


This article presents key concepts and methods used to develop a visual archaeology of two Indigenous societies of Tierra del Fuego (Shelk’nam, Yámana/Yagan). Photographs are conceived as artifacts, which condense the traces of at least two agents: photographers and photographed subjects. These visual records are not only biased by the different photographers who took them, but also shed light on the different material culture patterns produced by each Indigenous society, which are visible on the images when studied in large samples. The article discusses some results of systematic investigations carried out on a corpus of 847 photographs taken by 39 photographers of Shelk’nam and Yámana/Yagan persons (19th and early 20th centuries). These are compared to materials found in the archaeological record in order to generate new data about the material culture used by Fueguian hunter-gatherers.