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Guide to Patagonia's Monsters & Mysterious beings

I have written a book on this intriguing subject which has just been published.
In this blog I will post excerpts and other interesting texts on this fascinating subject.

Austin Whittall


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

More on the Patagonian Labrys, Phoenicians and Cretans


Getting back to my pervious post on the "Chelelon" or "Opposing triangle" shapes found in Patagonian rock art, and a possible link with Mediterranean cultures of ca. 1.500 BC., I have done some additional reading and can shed some light on some of the questions left unanswered in that post:


In the closing comments of that post I hinted "tongue in cheek" that:


"We could argue that the Cretan sailors reached Patagonia and smelted tin or copper and took it back to Crete in ingots shaped as Labyris, and that the Tehuelche natives imitated them and fashioned their own stone axes. Or that they saw the powerful religious connotations of the Cretan Labyris and adopted it as their own. But that is probably unlikely."


But I did not know then that the Cretans actually did smelt ingots that had a very odd shape! (in a Previous post, I mentioned that they came to Patagonia seeking copper) so it may possible that they had some influence on the native Patagonians. But first lets get back to the "labrys shape" and what my research found:


Patagonian tattoos

The Phoenicians according to Lucian of Samosata [1] tattooed themselves, and they represented these tattoos on their statues (such as the colossus at the Phoenician settlement of Amathus in Cyprus, which has “Tattoo marks on its arms” [2]


But what kind of evidence is this anyway, most human groups from different parts of the world tattoo themselves too!


George C. Musters, an English sailor and explorer who rode from Punta Arenas to Carmen de Patagones, with a band of Aonikenk Tehuelche natives in 1869/70, recorded first hand their customs and activities. He wrote about their tattoos too:


"Both men and women tattoo their forearms... the usual designs consist in a series of parallel lines and sometimes a single or double triangle, the upper one leaning on the apex of the lower one"


What Musters is describing is the opposed triangles motive or Chelelon design! [3]


They were done with blue clay or powered charcoal. He added that in the past the designs were more complex and were applied on the body and the face. He let them tattoo him.


What does this "double triangle" mean anyway? Why would they also tattoo themselves with it?


The Key to the Afterlife

Apparently a femenine goddess of the Tehuelches, whose name is written "Seécho, Sésom, was known as the " Old Woman of Heaven", nicknamed Karunon (which means hag).


She "Looks at the arm... she recevies the dead and examines that their wrists bear the Sháin (tattoo) and throws those who dont, into the sea.". The natives really feared her. [4]


This was also recorded by the Italo-Argentine scientist and explorer Clemente Onelli towards the end of the 1890s:


"They all have on their left arm small tattoos that, as an indian friend told me, are some kind of baptism to be able to enter the outwordly lands; the indian who does not have those hieratical signs marked on him is not allowed into heaven and if close to a river, his [body] is thrown into the water" [5]



A similar belief was held by the North American Sioux who believed that a warrior without tattoos would be turned away from the lodges of the afterlife, and wander the earth as a ghost.[7] Could this Trans-American myth have a common origin in the Paleoindians who peopled America ca. 30 kya? Or did they arise as separate myths?.


The Double cups

My previous post also mentioned "double cups" like two cones joined at their vertex with a shallow concave base.


They baffled me so I decided to read some more about the Tehuelche. They did not use glasses or chalice shaped cups, these artifacts serve another purpose:


They were Anvils. Here is the explanation:


Musters mentions that the Tehuelche jewels (except for the beads) "are home made: they make them by hammering coins that they obtain by trading with the colonies" (the Spanish outposts in Southern and Northern Patagonia or the Welsh one at Trelew, Chubut). [3]


Chilean author Mateo Martinic [6] goes into details on their metal working techniques:


"Anvils:, new handicraft activities arose, especially in working pieces of metal (bronze, copper) in which the natives besides using the elements that they acquired by barter (the most usual) they also used combined with tools belonging to their own culture, that is, stone anvils, adapted to making certain semi-spherical shapes... So that in some types of anvils were chipped to create small rounded cavities which were then used to make metal bowls." [6]


So this settles the mystery of the "double cups" they were anvils used by the natives to hammer coins into different jewels. Their concave bases were not designed to hold drinks but to shape the metal.


Oxhide ingots

For those longing for some Cretan or Phoenician link, other than Samosata's reference in the beginning of this post, there is a certain resemblance between the shape of the "Tehuelche axes" an the "oxhide ingots".


Oxhide ingots are metal slabs mostly made from smelting copper (though some are made from tin). They were manufactured and widely distributed during the Mediterranean Late Bronze Age (LBA).


Their shape resembles the hide of an ox, in which the "legs" are a protruding handle at each of the ingot’s four corners. These made it easier to carry the ingots on the backs of pack animals.


They have been found in Turkey, Cryprus, Crete, Sardinia, Sicily, Egypt and Bulgaria. The photo below depicts one:


oxhide ingot

Oxhide shaped ingot

The British Museum has more information on these ingots, and has a photo captioned "Copper Oxhide ingot from the Foundry Hoard, inscribed with a maker’s mark or Cypro-Minoan sign at one end (around 1200 BC-1050 BC)." So the Minoans made these ingots too.


Sources

[1] The Syrian Goddess De Dea Syria, by Lucian of Samosata by Herbert A. Strong and John Garstang [1913].
[2] Perrot and Chipiez, Phoenicia and its Dependencies, p. 165. Fig. 110
[3] Musters George, At Home with the Patagonians, Ed. Continente, B. Aires. 2007. pp. 158 and 159
[4] Alejandra Siffredi, Hierofanías y concepciones mítico-religiosas de los Tehuelches meridionales, Runa : archivo para las ciencias del hombre, 1969-1970, vol. 12, p. 247-271.
[5] Clemente Onelli, (1904)Trepando los Andes pp. 156.
[6] Mateo Martinic Beros, (1995) Los Aonikenk: Historia y cultura, pp. 99 and 214
[7] Faith Hickman Brynia 101 Questions about Your Skin that Got Under Your Skin ... Until Now pp. 142



Patagonian Monsters - Cryptozoology, Myths & legends in Patagonia Copyright 2009-2013 by Austin Whittall © 

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