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Sling sinka

Sling sinka

Place: Tierra del Fuego
Category: Fishing & hunting

leather, animal sinew, Tierra del Fuego, l. 165 cm, 15 cm (pouch), Inv. Am 15

Humphrey No. 341: ‘another [sling] made of plaited Cordage, the place for the Stone of Leather, from Terra del fuego.’

Two three-ply, plaited cords made of sinews are affixed to the opposite ends of a diamond-shaped pouch, the latter made of brown leather and with traces of red pigment. One of the two cords is 5 cm longer than the other, and both end in ball-shaped bulges for a secure grip.

The slings of the Fuegians were neither mentioned nor illustrated in the sources of the Cook voyages. Gusinde (1931-75, II: 483) mentioned the Göttingen sling in connection with the Yaghan; however, his description of the difference between the slings of the Yaghan and the Ona makes clear that the Göttingen piece must have come from the latter. This is because the Yaghan regularly left the hairs on the leather pouch, while the Selknam removed them (Gusinde 1931-75, II: 481-85, Fig. 40, 41; cf. Koppers 1924: 234, Fig. 29). The slings of the Yaghan and Ona were otherwise very similar (Lovisato 1883: 7; Hyades and Deniker 1891: 357f., PI. 30, Fig. 14, 16, 17; Cooper 1917: 214).

For use, the Selknam placed one or more stones in the pouch, which was held in the left hand, while the right hand grasped the two cords. The longer cord was held between the middle and ring fingers, while the shorter cord was held by the thumb and index finger and released after the sling was spun horizontally twice or three times, so that the stones flew out tangentially. The weapon was generally used for hunting birds, and only seldom in combat. When not being used, it was worn as a headband or around the neck (Gusinde 1931-75, I: 243f., Fig. 39). Christian F. Feest


Cooper, John M, Analytical and Critical Bibliography of the Tribes of Tierra del Fuego and Adjacent Territory, Bulletin 63, Bureau of American Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, 1917.

Gusinde, Martin, Die Feuerland-Indianer, 1: Die Selk’nam. 2: Die Yamana. 3/1: Die Halakwulup. 3/2: Anthropologie der Feuerland-Indianer, Mödling bei Wien, 1931-1975.

Hyades, P and Deniker, J, Mission Scientifique du Cap Horn, 1882-1883, vol. VII: Anthropologie. Ethnologie, Paris, 1891.

Koppers, Wilhelm, Unter Feuerland-Indianern, Stuttgart, 1924.

Lovisato, Domenico, ‘Di alcune armi e utensili die fueghini, e degli antichi patagoni’, Reale Accademia dei Lincei, 1883, vol. 280, ser. 3, p. 11.

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