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Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) osteometric data from an individual from Northwest Argentina

Dataset corresponding to a guanaco skeleton studied by the authors in 1991 from the collections of the Cátedra de Anatomía Comparada, Universidad Nacional de Salta, Argentina.

Project Abstract

Banner image credits: (At left) Guanaco from Laguna Brava, La Rioja, Argentina. By Tatiana Sánchez. PIDBA, Instituto de Investigaciones de Biodiversidad Argentina. Facultad de Ciencias Naturales e Instituto Miguel Lillo, Universidad Nacional de Tucumán, Tucumán, Argentina. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0; (At right) Guanaco from Abra del Acay, Salta, Argentina. By Yanina Bonduri. Programa SiPAP (Sistema Provincial de Áreas Protegidas), Secretaría de Ambiente, Ministerio de Ambiente y Producción Sustentable de la Provincia de Salta, Salta, Argentina. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

About the Dataset:

The dataset corresponds to a guanaco skeleton studied by G. L. Mengoni Goñalons and D. C. Elkin during a visit made by Dr. Jane C. Wheeler (CONOPA - Instituto de Investigación y Desarrollo de Camélidos Sudamericanos, Pachacamac, Lima, Peru) to Argentina in 1991. The individual measured belonged to the collections of the Cátedra de Anatomía Comparada, Universidad Nacional de Salta, Argentina. The skeleton corresponds to a female of 88 kg. The estimated age is between 36-48 months by dentition and 36-48 months by fusion stages. Criteria used for age estimation are based on Kaufmann (2009). The M1, M2 and M3 in the mandible have already erupted. The first and second crest of the M3 were completely exposed but the third crest was not visible yet. All the epiphyses of the long bones were fused.

How to Access the Measurements:

You may download the full data table here. You may also view all measurements for each element by clicking on "Data Records" at the right side of the screen. This will take you to a list of the 14 skeletal elements in this study.


Dr. Guillermo Luis Mengoni Goñalons. Instituto de Arqueología (IA), Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. ORCID ID:

Dr. Dolores Carolina Elkin. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) and Instituto Nacional de Antropología y Pensamiento Latinoamericano (INAPL), Argentina. ORCID ID:

Location and Period:

This is a modern period individual that was collected from Cumbres Calchaquíes range as it extends into the province of Salta (Argentina).

Related Datasets:

Related datasets of archaeological and modern specimens can be found in the Osteometric Database of South American Camelids.

Project Description:

South American Camelids (SACs) have been of great importance for the hunting and herding societies living in the Andes, Pampas and Patagonia, and they are still of great significance for many local communities (Mengoni Goñalons 2008; Capriles and Tripcevich 2016; Wheeler 2012). At present they are represented by four different species: two of them wild, the guanaco (Lama guanicoe) and the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna) with two subspecies each, and two domesticated, the llama (Lama glama) and the alpaca (Vicugna pacos).

Genetic studies have shown the existence of two haplogroups, guanaco–llama and vicuña–alpaca (Marín et al. 2017) and given support to the hypothesis that the llama derives from the guanaco and the alpaca from the vicuña (Wheeler et al. 2006; Marín et al. 2017; among others), and that domestication was signalled by a long hybridization history (Díaz-Maroto et al. 2021). Molecular studies based on mitochondrial DNA have also recognized two subspecies of guanaco: L.g. cacsilensis found in Peru and northern Chile and L. g. guanicoe found in Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Central and Southern Chile (Marín et al. 2008; Mesas et al. 2021). And very recent genome studies have confirmed that the northern subspecies of guanaco (L. g. cacsilensis) is the wild ancestor of the llama (Fan et al. 2020), although the panorama of the domestication process is showing more complexity that was previously thought (Díaz-Maroto et al. 2021) and may involve multiple centers of domestication (Mengoni Goñalons and Yacobaccio 2006). The southern subspecies of guanaco (L. g. guanicoe), which had a very wide pre-Columbian distribution, according to some previous genetic and taxonomic studies seemed to be unrelated to the process from which llamas derived (see Wheeler et al. 2006), although recent studies suggest the contrary (see Díaz-Maroto et al. 2021). Anyhow, there are still genetic studies lacking for the guanaco of Northwest Argentina whose osteometric data is the subject of this publication.

When SACs are compared, one aspect that stands out is the significant difference in their live weight. At present, they can be ordered according to a size gradient: vicuñas being the smallest (35–50 kg), followed by alpacas (55–65 kg), and then guanacos (90–130 kg) and llamas (90–140 kg). From an osteometric point of view the guanaco varies in size according to a geographical gradient. The guanacos from Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are larger than those from Central and Western Argentina, and those from Northwest Argentina are the smallest (Elkin et al. 1991; Mengoni Goñalons and Yacobaccio 2006; Gasco y Cardillo 2014; Mondini and Muñoz 2017).

Potential applications of the Data:

Based on the recent genetic studies mentioned above, the most appropriate osteometric standard for discriminating individuals among the large size group (llama and guanaco) would be either the northern subspecies of guanaco (L. g. cacsilensis) or the guanaco from the same geographical region from which the bone samples were obtained, either Central (Peru) or South-Central Andes (Northern Chile, Southern Bolivia and Northwest Argentina). The logic behind this statement is, in first place, that there is an increasing North-South size gradient in the guanacos, and, second, the smallest guanacos overlap with the smallest of the llama variants, as shown by various authors (Mengoni Goñalons and Yacobaccio 2006; L´Heureux and Cornaglia Fernández 2016; Mondini and Muñoz 2017; Yacobaccio 2010). Therefore, the osteometric dataset presented here is of great value for zooarchaeological size variability studies. It also complements some measurements published by Izeta et al. (2009) and the recent contribution of Mondini and Muñoz (2017) of an osteometric dataset for a guanaco individual of Sierra de Aconquija, Catamarca province, Northwest Argentina.

Our unpublished dataset has been used over three decades by different researchers including ourselves (e.g., Belotti López Medina 2013; Costa y Barri 2018; del Papa 2020; Elkin 1996; Gasco y Cardillo 2014; Grant 2010; Izeta et al. 2010; López 2003; Madero 2004; Maryañski 2012; Medina et al. 2014; Mengoni Goñalons and Yacobaccio 2006; Mercolli 2010; Miyano et al. 2017; Mondini and Muñoz 2017; Olivera and Grant 2009; Rosenfeld 2012; Urquiza and Aschero 2014; Yacobaccio 2010). Clearly, the present dataset fills a gap in the osteometric information currently available for the guanaco of Northwest Argentina. We are also providing biological information that expands the potential application of the data.

Methodological notes:

The measurements employed for building this dataset were inspired in the pioneer guides of Wing (1972), von den Driesch (1976), Miller (1979), Kent (1982), Menegaz et al. (1988) and used in Elkin´s doctoral dissertation (Elkin 1996). The latter was the first guide of measurements for South American Camelids produced in Spanish and has been widely used by several authors along the years. The measurements were taken with a handheld analogical metal caliper with a precision of .02 millimetres. In this publication we include the equivalences to other measuring systems that were inspired in von den Driesch (1976), Kent (1982) or ours. Only the scapula, long and cannon bones from the right side were measured, while measurements for the astragalus and calcaneum were taken from bones of the left side. The first and second phalanges cannot be sided, but we differentiated between fore and hindlimb, measuring only a single toe for each.

Fusion stages reached by the guanaco studied for this dataset and age range at which each fusion normally occurs. The fusion chronogramme and the codes for each bone are taken from Kaufmann (2009).

Element / Age in months










Humerus : trochlea (HU5)



Innominate : acetabulum (PE1)



Scapula : coracoid (ESC1)



Humerus : epicondyles (HUE3 y HUE4)



Phalanx 1 : epiphysis



Calcaneum : tuberosity (CA1)



Tibia : distal epiphysis (TI3)



Metapodial : epiphysis (MC1 y MT1)



Femur : greater and lesser trochanters (FE1 and FE3)



Radioulna : distal epiphysis (RC2)



Femur : distal epiphysis (FE4)



Tibia : proximal epiphysis (TI2)



Radioulna : olecranon (RC3)



Femur : head (FE2)



Humerus : proximal epiphysis (HU2)



Innominate: pubic symphysis (PE2)



F: fused; UF: unfused


No specific funding was required and the dataset was generated under a collective zooarchaeological project (Elkin et al. 1991) that was formalized later as the Grupo Zooarqueología de Camélidos - GZC, currently an ICAZ Working Group.


We are deeply grateful to Sarah Whitcher Kansa for the generous opportunity of publishing in Open Context and for all her thoughtful advice and careful editing. We also want to thank Mariana Mondini for encouraging us to write this article and for all her helpful comments and suggestions. Any errors or omissions are our responsibility.

Related Publications:

Belotti López de Medina, Carlos R. 2013. Usos económicos y rituales de la fauna en la región valliserrana del Noroeste argentino entre los inicios del Periodo Temprano y hasta la conquista inka (ca. 600 AC- 1600 DC): Zooarqueología del valle de Yocavil (Catamarca), centro y norte del valle Calchaquí (Salta) y la Quebrada de Humahuaca (Jujuy). Unpublished Doctoral Thesis. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires.

Capriles, José, and Nicholas Tripcevich. 2016. The archaeology of Andean pastoralism. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.

Costa Thiago and Fernando Barri. 2018 Lama guanicoe remains from the Chaco ecoregion (Córdoba, Argentina): An osteological approach to the characterization of a relict wild population. PLoS ONE 13(4): e0194727. journal.pone.0194727

Del Papa, Luis M. 2020. Diferenciación de camélidos en la región Chaco-Santiagueña (Argentina) para el período Agroalfarero (350-1550 dC). Latin American Antiquity 31(2): 375 – 391. https://doi:10.1017/laq.2019.104

Diaz-Maroto, Paloma, Alba Rey-Iglesia, Isabel Cartajena, Lautaro Núñez, Michael Westbury, Valeria Varas, Mauricio Moraga, Paula F. Campos, Pablo Orozco-terWengel, Juan Carlo Marín, and Anders J. Hansen. 2021. Ancient DNA reveals the lost domestication history of South American camelids in Northern Chile and across the Andes. ELife, 10, e63390.

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Elkin, Dolores C., Celina M. Madero, Guillermo L. Mengoni Goñalons, Daniel E. Olivera y Hugo D. Yacobaccio. 1991. Avances en el estudio arqueológico de los camélidos en el noroeste argentino. Paper presented at the VII Convención Internacional de Especialistas en Camélidos Sudamericanos, San Salvador de Jujuy. MS.

Fan, Ruiwen, Zhongru Gu, Xuanmin Guang, Juan Carlos Marín, Valeria Varas, Benito A. González, Jane C. Wheeler, Yafei Hu, Erli Li, Xiaohui Sun, Xukui Yang, Chi Zhang, Wenjun Gaeo, Junping He, Kasper Munch, Russel Cordett-Detig, Mario Barbato, Shengkai Pan, Xiangjiang Zhan, Michael W. Bruford and Chagsheng Dong. 2020. Genomic Analysis of the Domestication and Post-Spanish Conquest Evolution of the Llama and Alpaca. Genome Biology 21 (1): 159.

Gasco, Alejandra and Marcelo Cardillo. 2014. Caracterización morfométrica de la categoría “guanaco andino” (Lama guanicoe) en el Centro-Oeste Argentino. Un estudio actual osteométrico como base para análisis zooarqueológicos. Poster presented at the 12th ICAZ Conference, San Rafael.

Grant, Jennifer. 2010. Aportes de distintas técnicas osteométricas para la identificación interespecífica de camélidos sudamericanos. In: Zooarqueología a principios del siglo XXI: Aportes teóricos, metodológicos y casos de estudio, M. Gutiérrez, M. De Nigris, Pablo M. Fernández, A. Gil, A.Izeta, G.Neme y H. Yacobaccio (eds.), p. 17-28. Ediciones del Espinillo, Buenos Aires.

Izeta, Andrés, Clara Otaola and Alejandra Gasco. 2009. Osteometría de falanges proximales de camélidos sudamericanos modernos. Variabilidad, estándares métricos y su importancia como conjunto comparativo para la interpretación de restos hallados en contextos arqueológicos. Revista del Museo de Antropología 2: 169-180.

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L´Heureux, G. Lorena and Jimena Cornaglia Fernández. 2016. Variaciones ecomorfológicas de las poblaciones de guanaco de Patagonia (Argentina). Arqueología 22: 125-144.

López, Gabriel. 2003. Pastoreo y caza de camélidos en el Temprano de la Puna de Salta: Datos osteométricos del sitio Matancillas 2. Intersecciones en Antropología 4:17–27.

Madero, Celina M. 2004. Arqueofaunas en sociedades complejas: la ganadería prehispánica de camélidos en los Andes (Noroeste Argentino). In: Zooarchaeology of South America, G.L. Mengoni Goñalons (ed.), pp. 59-79. BAR International Series 1298. Archaeopress, Oxford.

Marín, Juan C., Angel E. Spotorno, Benito A. González, Cristian Bonacic, Jane C. Wheeler, Ciara S. Casey, Michael W. Bruford, R. Eduardo Palma, and Elie Poulin. 2008. Mitochondrial DNA Variation and Systematics of the Guanaco (Lama guanicoe, Artiodactyla: Camelidae), Journal of Mammalogy 89(2): 269–281.

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Maryañski, Juan. 2012. Consumo de camélidos durante el período de Desarrollos Regionales: una perspectiva local. Intersecciones en Antropología 15: 139-151.

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Suggested Citation

Guillermo L Mengoni Goñalons, Dolores C Elkin. (2021) "Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) osteometric data from an individual from Northwest Argentina". Released: 2021-09-15. Open Context. <> DOI:

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