Before Farming

Range area and seasonal campsites of Toba bands in western Chaco, Argentina

Before Farming (2003), 2003, (4), 1–12.

Abstract

Toba bands (co-residential groups of related families) have trekked the land at the intersection of the Pilcomayo River with the Tropic of Capricorn (Formosa Province, Argentina) since at least the 1840s. Previously, the Toba had been self-organised, mobile hunter-gatherers focused primarily on the exploitation of animals and terrestrial plants in the water-depressed microenvironments of western Chaco. My discussion of the bands' range areas and criteria for choosing campsites is based on the elders' recollection of their trekking in the 1920s. At that time, they were already living under conditions of ‘regional packing’ produced by cattle-posts. According to my analysis of oral information from 12 bands, the mean range area was 463 km2 and the mean distances that the bands travelled between campsites varied from 8 to 13 km. The estimated number of persons per band during the most dispersed phase of the annual cycle was between 14 and 35 or more. An estimated 553 Toba people trekked these range areas at the beginning of the twentieth century. Toba population density apparently remained low in relation to the availability of plant and animal resources. Some riverine bands carried out logistical movements while other bands practised high residential mobility. Toba campsites were consistently found on open fields near lagoons, in creek and ravines, and on riverbanks.

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Mendoza, Marcela