Four Stone Fishtail Points Fishtail projectile points excavated from Fell's Cave
During the waning of the Pleistocene in South America, human populations had to deal with the harsh rigors of the prevailing climate and, perhaps as a consequence, occupied different parts of the great continent at intervals. In some regions, the occupants coexisted with such soon-to-be-extinct animals as mastodons and giant ground sloths, and the tools they used were of wood, bone, and stone. Parts of what is now Chile were inhabited, with living sites at Monte Verde (10,500–9500 B.C.) in the south-central region and Fell's Cave (9000–8000 B.C.) in Patagonia.
Fell's Cave, a rock shelter in the valley of the Río Chico not far from the Strait of Magellan, was initially occupied by hunters who left behind an impressive layer of refuse. Sealed by hundreds of pounds of debris from the fall of the shelter overhang, the hunter's refuse included firepits with the broken bones of native horse, sloth, and guanaco as well as stone and bone tools. Among the stone tools were fishtail spearpoints, a form of stone point found in many places in South America. Fishtail points are flaked bifacially (that is, worked on both sides) and have pronounced shoulders above a clearly shaped stem. Some are fluted with small channels removed from the bottom. In 1936–37, the discoveries in Fell's Cave represented the first evidence of early humans in South America. Since then, older sites such as Monte Verde have been identified.