University of Oulu

Salmi, A.-K., van den Berg, M., Niinimäki, S., & Pelletier, M. (2021). Earliest archaeological evidence for domesticated reindeer economy among the Sámi of Northeastern Fennoscandia AD 1300 onwards. Journal of Anthropological Archaeology, 62, 101303.

Earliest archaeological evidence for domesticated reindeer economy among the Sámi of Northeastern Fennoscandia AD 1300 onwards

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Author: Salmi, Anna-Kaisa1; van den Berg, Mathilde1; Niinimäki, Sirpa1;
Organizations: 1History, Culture and Communication Studies, University of Oulu, P.O. Box 1000, 90014 University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 5.6 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Elsevier, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-04-22


The domestication of the reindeer among the Sámi of Northern Fennoscandia is a pressing question for the archaeology of the area and has wider relevance to animal domestication studies globally. Despite considerable research activity, many details of reindeer domestication and early reindeer management remain unclear. This paper explores the use of draught reindeer in early Sámi reindeer herding and the implications for understanding reindeer domestication and early reindeer herding strategies. Faunal assemblages from three Sámi dwelling sites in Northeastern Fennoscandia (AD 1300–1800) were subjected to radiocarbon dating and analysis of palaeopathological lesions, entheseal changes and osteometric measurements. The results suggest that working reindeer were present in the archaeological assemblages from AD 1300 onwards. This is the earliest direct evidence of draught reindeer use by the Sámi. It predates the earliest unequivocal historical sources on draught reindeer use, and confirms the hypothesis that draught reindeer were important in early reindeer herding. Our results show that that small-scale reindeer herding was integrated into the subsistence strategy of the Sámi of Northeastern Fennoscandia earlier than previously suggested. Furthermore, the results imply that training and working together with reindeer were ways of constructing the domestication relationship between the Sámi and reindeer.

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Series: Journal of anthropological archaeology
ISSN: 0278-4165
ISSN-E: 1090-2686
ISSN-L: 0278-4165
Volume: 62
Article number: 101303
DOI: 10.1016/j.jaa.2021.101303
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Funding: This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No. 756431) and the Academy of Finland (project numbers 275635 and 308322).
EU Grant Number: (756431) DOMESTICATION - Domestication in Action - Tracing Archaeological Markers of Human-Animal Interaction
Academy of Finland Grant Number: 308322
Detailed Information: 308322 (Academy of Finland Funding decision)
Copyright information: © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (