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Patagonia is a region located in Argentina and Chile, integrating the southernmost section of the Andes mountains to the southwest towards the Pacific ocean and from the east of the cordillera to the valleys it follows south through Colorado River towards Carmen de Patagones in the Atlantic Ocean. To the west, it includes the territory of Valdivia through Tierra del Fuego archipelago.

The name Patagonia comes from the word patagón used by Magellan in 1520 to describe the native people that his expedition thought to be giants. It is now believed the Patagons were actually Tehuelches with an average height of 180 cm compared to the 155 cm average for Spaniards of the time.
The Argentine portion of Patagonia includes the provinces of Neuquén, Río Negro, Chubut and Santa Cruz, as well as the eastern portion of Tierra del Fuego archipelago and the southernmost department of Buenos Aires province: Patagones. The Argentine politico-economic Patagonic Region includes the Province of La Pampa. Patagonia has a Welsh colony.

The Chilean part of Patagonia embraces the southern provinces and regions of Aisén and Magallanes, including the west side of Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn.

Argentine Patagonia is for the most part a region of steppelike plains, rising in a succession of 13 abrupt terraces about 100 metres (330 ft) at a time, and covered with an enormous bed of shingle almost bare of vegetation. In the hollows of the plains are ponds or lakes of fresh and brackish water. Towards the Andes the shingle gives place to porphyry, granite, and basalt lavas, animal life becomes more abundant and vegetation more luxuriant, acquiring the characteristics of the flora of the western coast, and consisting principally of southern beech and conifers. The high rainfall against the western Andes (Wet Andes) and the low sea surface temperatures offshore give rise to cold and humid air masses, contributing to the ice-fields and glaciers, the largest ice-fields in the Southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica.

HISTORY

Human habitation of the region dates back thousands of years, with some early archaeological findings in the area dated to at least the 13th millennium BC, although later dates of around the 10th millennium BC are more securely recognized. There is evidence of human activity at Monte Verde in Llanquihue Province, Chile dated to around 12,500 BC. The glacial period ice-fields and subsequent large meltwater streams would have made settlement difficult at that time.

The region seems to have been inhabited continuously since 10,000 BC, by various cultures and alternating waves of migration, the details of which are as yet poorly understood. Hearths, stone scrapers, animal remains dated to 9400-9200 BC have been found east of the Andes. The Cueva de las Manos is a famous site in Santa Cruz, Argentina. A cave at the foot of a cliff, it has wall paintings, particularly the negative images of hundreds of hands, believed to date from around 8000 BC.

The indigenous peoples of the region included the Tehuelches, whose numbers and society were reduced to near extinction not long after the first contacts with Europeans. The Tehuelches were mainly a nomad tribe that moved from east to west during the change of the seasons, following their hunting habits. One of the principal camps found by archeologists recently is the site of Monte Verde near Puerto Montt, which dates 14.500 BP. The Tehuelches skillfully hunted deer, pumas and new guanacos during the season, in this way they would sustain their feeding habits all year. They would have their children during this period, in protected areas of the forest and Cordilleras of the Chilean Patagonia and away from the heat of the eastern and western territory.

Around 1000 BC, Mapuche-speaking agriculturalists penetrated the western Andes and from there across into the eastern plains and down to the far south. Through confrontation and technological ability, they came to dominate the other peoples of the region in a short period of time, and are the principal indigenous community today. The Tehuelche model of domination through technological superiority and armed confrontation was later repeated as Europeans implemented a succeeding but conceptually identical cycle, essentially replacing the position of the former dominators with a new, albeit predominately European class.

Early European exploration and Spanish conquest attempts (1520-1584)

The region of Patagonia was first mentioned in European accounts in 1520 by the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan, who on his passage along the coast named many of the more striking features – Gulf of San Matias, Cape of 11,000 Virgins (now simply Cape Virgenes), and others. However, it is also possible that earlier navigators such as Amerigo Vespucci had reached the area (his own account of 1502 has it that he reached its latitudes), however his failure to accurately describe the main geographical features of the region such as the Río de la Plata casts some doubt on whether he really did so.

The first European explorers of Patagonia observed that the indigenous people in the region were taller than the average Europeans of the time, prompting some of them to believe that Patagonians were giants. According to Antonio Pigafetta, one of the Magellan expedition's few survivors and its published chronicler, Magellan bestowed the name "Patagão" (or Patagón) on the inhabitants they encountered there, and the name "Patagonia" for the region.

However, the Patagonian giant frenzy was to die down substantially only a few years later, when some more sober and analytical accounts were published. In 1773 John Hawkesworth published on behalf of the Admiralty a compendium of noted English southern-hemisphere explorers' journals, including that of James Cook and John Byron. In this publication, drawn from their official logs, it became clear that the people Byron's expedition had encountered were no taller than 6-foot-6-inch (1.98 m), very high but by no means giants. Interest soon subsided, although awareness of and belief in the myth persisted in some quarters even up into the 20th century.

Two hydrographic surveys of the coasts were of first-rate importance: the first expedition (1826–1830) including HMS Adventure and HMS Beagle under Phillip Parker King, and the second (1832–1836) being the voyage of the Beagle under Robert FitzRoy. The latter expedition is particularly noted for the participation of Charles Darwin who spent considerable time investigating various areas of Patagonia onshore, including long rides with gauchos in Río Negro, and who joined FitzRoy in a 200 miles (320 km) expedition taking ships boats up the course of the Santa Cruz river.

Until 1902, a large proportion of Patagonia's population were natives of Chiloé Archipelago (Chilotes) who worked as peons in large livestock farming estancias. As manual labour they had status below the gauchos and the Argentine, Chilean and European landowners and administrators.
Aerial view of Lake Viedma and Viedma Glacier, Santa Cruz Province. Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comSouthern Patagonian Ice Field, Santa Cruz Province. Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comWindswept Patagonian Steppe, Santa Cruz Province. Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comWindswept Patagonian Steppe, Santa Cruz Province. Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comMount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy. Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comSouthern Patagonian Ice Field, Santa Cruz Province. Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comMount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy. Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comArchive picture of Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy. Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comEl Chaltén. Santa Cruz Province, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comSunset over Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy and the Towers of Paine. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.View over El Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy in the evening. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli /The Paine "horns," with the typical extreme weather of the region. Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. Patagonia, Chile 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comSunset over El Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy in the evening. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de AngelliSunset over El Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy in the evening. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de AngelliEl Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / www.noraphotos.comSunset over El Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy in the evening. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de AngelliSunset over El Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy in the evening. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de AngelliSunset over El Chaltén and Mount Fitz Roy - Cerro Fitz Roy in the evening. Santa Cruz Province, Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de AngelliView over the glacial valley of Río de las Vueltas from the trail towards the Fitz Roy peak. Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / wView over the glacial valley of Río de las Vueltas from the trail towards the Fitz Roy peak. Southern Patagonian Ice Field, Los Glaciares National Park. Patagonia, Argentina 2011 © Nora de Angelli / w

Categories & Keywords
Category:Travel and Places
Subcategory:South America
Subcategory Detail:Argentina
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