Ancient Argentina
The land of the Argentine Pampas was once teaming with wildlife and a little known indigenous culture that lived in one of the world's largest grasslands


The Culture and History of the Pampas

Stone Mask, northern Argentina, 14th Century

First Argentinean inhabitants arrived 12,000 years ago. In the Patagonian regions in the south of Argentina great grasslands, known as the Pampas, stretch for thousands of miles. Archeological traces were found 11,000 years old. During the 16th century native communities had to fight the Spanish conquerors to be able to maintain their way of life. Others chose to "blend" with the European culture. In both cases they not only lost their culture, land, and community life but they are also frequently discriminated. Today, only 11 ethnic groups and half a million indigenous try to survive and rebuild their culture.

The Mocovi

Mocoví body tattoos and woman tattooing a man from Manuscript circa 1750

Mocovi Indians. The name is also written Ma-coblo, Meoconi, Mocoblo. They are a warlike and predatory tribe of Guaycuran stock, and are closely related linguistically to the Toba, Mbaya, and Abipon, their usual allies, settled principally along the middle and upper Vermejo River, in the Chaco region of northern Argentina, although they formerly extended their forays as far south as Santa Fe and even to the gates of Buenos Aires. In habit of life and general characteristics they resembled the rest of the tribes just mentioned, but were distinguished even beyond them, as Dobrizhoffer says, "in atrocity and steady hatred to the Spaniards. They seemed to conspire to ruin Tucuman, proving themselves formidable, not to solitary estates merely, but to whole cities". They entirely destroyed the town of Concepcion and massacred its inhabitants.

This special hostility to the people of Tucuman was due to the fact that years before a large number of Mocovi, who had been induced through the efforts of the Jesuit Fathers Altamirano and Diaz to come in from the war-path and had been organized into the mission of San Xavier, had been treacherously seized and distributed as slaves by the governor of that province. They received a temporary check in 1710 from Governor Urizar, who led a great expedition of over three thousand men against the Chaco tribes, with the result that several tribes made peace, while the Mocovi retired to the southwest and continued their raids in that quarter. Thirty years later, during a period of truce, some of the Mocovi became acquainted with the Jesuits of the College of Santa Fe, through whose influence they were won to friendship with the Spaniards, and the chiefs Aletin and Chitalin consented to receive Christian instruction together with their people. As a result the Mocovi mission colony of San Xavier was established in 1743 by Father Francisco Burges Navarro, thirty leagues from the city, and from a small beginning increased rapidly by accessions from the roving bands of the tribe, who were, from time to time, won over by the persuasions of the new converts. Prisoners captured in the various expeditions were also brought into the new mission, while many voluntarily took refuge there to escape pursuit.

A view of Pampas Indians in the colonial era, Aquatint circa 18th century

The Mocovi proved devout, tractable, and willing workers, and particularly competent musicians under the instruction of the German Father Florian Pauke, who organized a band and chorus whose services were in demand on church occasions even in Buenos Aires. With bell in hand, the chief himself, Aletin, acted as crier every morning to call his people to Mass, and took the lead in every task of difficulty. A third chief, who had long held out against the Spaniards and made war upon his mission kinsmen in revenge for their abandonment of the old life, finally came in voluntarily. In 1765 a second Mocovi mission, San Pedro y Pablo, was established by Father Pauke with another portion of the tribe which had until then continued hostile.

At the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767 the two missions contained about 1200 Mocovi of whom all but a few were Christians. Deprived of their accustomed teachers, most of them finally rejoined their wild kinsmen in the forests of the Chaco. In 1800 the tribe was still loosely estimated at 2000 warriors or over 6000 souls. They are now reduced far below that number, but retain their tribal organization and habits, though no longer hostile, and range generally along the western banks of the Parana. The best study of their language is Father Tavolini's "Introduction al Arte Mocovi".

The Toba Indians

One of the few known Photos of Toba Woman showing her unique facial tattoos

Toba Indians, one of the few still unconquered savage tribes of the great Chaco wilderness of South America, and notable alike for their persistent hostility to the white man and for their close resemblance in language, customs, and manner of living to the celebrated Abipón, among whom the famous Jesuit Martin Dobrizhoffer (q.v.) labored one hundred and fifty years ago. They are of Guaycuran linguistic stock, which includes also the Abipón, Mocoví, and a number of other tribes of similar predatory habit, and range, in alliance with the Mocoví, through the forests and marshes of the Chaco region on the west, bank of the Paraguay River about the lower Pilcomayo and Vermejo, in Paraguay and northeast Argentina, sometimes extending their forays westward to the frontiers of Oran and Tarija. They are known under various names, the most common being from the Guaraní tobai, signifying "opposite", i.e. those living on the opposite bank of the Paraguay from the Guaraní. They number now perhaps 2000 souls.

Physically they are tall and well-built, with fierce countenance, and from going constantly barefoot the soles of their feet are toughened to resist thorns and sharp rocks. Both sexes go nearly naked except when in the presence of strangers, and wear their hair long, the men confining it by means of a band or turban. On special occasions they wear shirts or skirts of skins or of woollen stuff, of their own weaving, from the sheep they now possess, together with headdresses, belts, and wristlets of ostrich feathers. They tattoo their faces and upper bodies with vegetable dye. They live almost entirely by hunting and fishing, but raise a little corn. They have large herds of horses and are fine horsemen. The men are expert in the making of dug-out canoes and fish traps, while the women are expert, potters and net weavers. Their huts are simple structures of willow branches covered with grass, sometimes large enough to have several compartments. Their weapons are the bow, lance, and wooden club, besides which they now have some guns. They bury the dead, the aged being sometimes killed by their own children from a feeling of pity for their helplessness. For the same reason, when a mother dies her infant is buried with her. Men have only one wife at a time. There is no head chief, the government resting principally with the old men. Little is known of their religion, which seems to consist chiefly of a special reverence for the sun and the rising moon, and the propitiation of a host of invisible spirits which are held responsible for sickness and other misfortunes. In war they are distinguished for their ferocity and barbarous cruelty, and are dreaded alike by settlers, travellers, and Christianized Indians throughout the whole northern Chaco frontier. In 1882 they massacred an entire exploring expedition of fifteen men under command of the French geographer, Crévaux. In 1854, however, the American expedition up the Paraguay, under Captain Page, held friendly intercourse with them. Some special studies of their language, which is virtually the same as that of the Abipón, have been made by Carranza and Quevedo. An interesting, though strongly anti-religious, account of their latter-day condition and habits is given by the Italian engineer, Pelleschi.

Pampas Indians hunting after the arrival of horses in the colonial era

In the early colonization period of the eighteenth century the Toba, with the Abipón and Mocoví, were among the most determined and constant enemies of the Argentine-Paraguayan settlements and missions, and hardly a half year ever passed without a raid or retaliatory punitive expedition. On one occasion six hundred Toba attacked Dobrizhoffer's mission, but were repelled by the missionary himself single-handed with the aid of his firearms, of which the savages were in deadly terror. The missionary received an arrow wound in the encounter. In 1756 a number of Toba and Mataco were gathered into the Mission of San Ignacio de Ledesma, on the Rio Grande tributary of the Vermejo, where they numbered 600 souls at the time of the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767. Some later attempt was made by the Franciscans to restore the Chaco missions, but with the end of Spanish rule the missions declined and the Indians scattered to the forests.

The Boleadora

The Boleadora, the common weapon of the Pampas

The bola, or boleadora is a primitive hunting tool that was originally used by the South American Indians, within the Pampas in particular. Bolas are a throwing device made of weights on the ends of interconnected cords, designed to capture animals by entangling their appendages (legs, wings). They still are most famously used by the South American gauchos, the Argentine cowboys who can trace an ethinc indian and Spanish descent. The Pampas Indians used bolas to capture running cattle or game. Depending on the exact design, the thrower grasps the bolas either by one of the weights or in the nexus of the cords. He gives the balls momentum by swinging them and then he releases the bolas. The bola is usually used to entangle the animal's legs, but if thrown with enough force, they have been known to break bones. There is no unique design. Most bolas have two or three balls, but there are versions of up to 8 balls. Some bolas have balls of equal weight, others vary the knot and cord. Bolas with three weights are usually designed with two shorter cords with heavier weights, and one longer cord with a light weight. The heavier weights flying at the front parallel to each other, hit either side of the legs, and the lighter weight going around, wrapping up the legs. Gauchos use bolas made of braided leather cords with wooden balls or small leather sacks filled with stones in the ends of the cords. Bolas can be named depending on the amount of weights used: Bola Perdida or Bola Loca ( Crazy or Lost Ball ,1 weight ), Avestrucera or nanducera (2 weights) used more commonly for game birds of the Pampas, and Boleadora or Tres Marias or Tres Potreadoras (3 weights).

The bola perdida was primarily used against humans, but later as a tool for hunting Rheas (large flightless birds) or cimarrón (wild cattle). The bola perdida is an invention posterior to the arrival of horses, and it is used mainly in the Pampas and northern Patagonia. Tres Marias (Three Marys) or Tres Potreadoras (Three Tamers) usually had ropes of different lengths and weights of different mass so when thrown they would separate as much as possible. These were used for heavy animals like cattle. The Patagonian, Charruan, Araucan and the indians from las Pampas were the first to develop these tools and the gauchos promptly adopted them. Earliest examples were usually made of stone. The weights were usually covered in fresh leather that when dried would shrink to cover the weight snugly. In Tres Marias the smallest weight is called the "Manija". This is usually also hung on the shortest rope and is used to sling the boleadoras. The most luxurious boleadoras are made of ivory and covered in precious metals. The work on them may be so fine that they are actually considered works of art.

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Under founding of denmark the picture of a statue is not gorm the old, but holger danske/ ogier the dane.
Holger Danske is normally regarded as a Danish national symbol. He is first mentioned in literature as one of the French king Charlemagne’s warriors in La Chanson de Roland from around 1060. In this Chanson he is called Oger le Danois, his name being the only link to Denmark. In the later epos La Chevalerie d’Ogier de Danemarche (1200-1215) he is portrayed as the main character and is described as a son of the Danish king Gudfred (d. 810), an enemy of Charlemagne.

His first appearance in Nordic literature is in the saga Karlemagnússaga from the latter part of the 1200s, which in the main consists of passages translated from French texts. His name here is given as Oddgeir danski. This saga was translated into Danish during the 1400s and thereafter Holger Danske became part of Danish folklore with several accounts in the Danish Chronicle first published around 1509.

The Danish national writer Hans Christian Andersen in 1845 wrote the fairytale Holger Danske, where he is described as sitting fast asleep in the casemates of the Castle of Kronborg, with his beard having grown into the table in front of him and his sword in his lap, prepared to wake up to action in case of Denmark being threatened from outside forces. Today his statue can be seen in the casemates of Kronborg as described by Hans Christian Andersen.

During the German occupation of Denmark in 1940-45 one of the principal partisan organizations was named after Holger Danske.

in Ancient Denmark

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