Living with Reindeer in Arctic Siberia: the View from Arctic Yamal, Russia


Reindeer are an essential part of daily life and special events across a broad stretch of northern Eurasia, but their long term history with people has remained elusive. Ethnographers have characterized reindeer as living in ‘intermittent co-existence’ with humans, or as ‘semi-domesticates’, ‘pastoral herd animals’, and even ‘slaves’. Archaeology has struggled to characterize human-reindeer relationships, with even the geographical origins of modern domesticated deer remaining unclear. The Yamal Peninsula of Arctic Siberia has a remarkable record of human interaction with reindeer, including habitation sites with abundant deer remains, harness equipment dating back 2000 years, and a rich iconography in which these animals are commonly depicted. This paper presents our ongoing efforts to integrate these sources of information to produce an enriched understanding of human-reindeer engagement in the Siberian north. Described in the presentation will be preliminary results of zooarchaeological analyses of the region’s faunal assemblages, and experimental work with replicas of the reindeer harness equipment from several sites in Yamal. These technical studies are discussed using a theoretical perspective that envisions domestication as an ongoing, multidirectional, and multispecies process that involves changes in genotypes and phenotypes, but that also involves sociality, shared labor, and numerous crafts.

Cite this Record

Living with Reindeer in Arctic Siberia: the View from Arctic Yamal, Russia. Robert Losey, Tatiana Nomokonova, Andrei Gusev, Natalia Fedorova. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430483)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -178.41; min lat: 62.104 ; max long: 178.77; max lat: 83.52 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 14536