University of Oulu

Pelletier, M., Discamps, E., Bignon-Lau, O. et al. Investigating the domestication and early management of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) in the Sámi archaeological context from teeth geometric morphometrics. Sci Rep 13, 6174 (2023).

Investigating the domestication and early management of reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) in the Sámi archaeological context from teeth geometric morphometrics

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Author: Pelletier, Maxime1; Discamps, Emmanuel2; Bignon-Lau, Olivier3;
Organizations: 1Archaeology, History, Culture and Communication Studies, Faculty of Humanities, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
2CNRS UMR5608 TRACES, University of Toulouse Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France
3UMR 8068 TEMPS, MSH-Mondes, Nanterre, France
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 2.1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-09-12


For centuries, reindeer herding has been an integral part of the subsistence, lifeways, economy and cosmology of the Sámi of northern Fennoscandia. Despite its importance, the timing and details of early reindeer domestication are still highly debated. Identifying domesticated individuals in the archaeological record remains complicated due to the presence of two interbreeding subspecies in Fennoscandia and a mixed socio-economic organisation by Sámi populations, which was mainly a combination of wild reindeer hunting and small-scale reindeer herding. This study proposes methodological improvement for identifying domestic individuals using 2D landmark and sliding semi-landmark based geometric morphometrics on the isolated lower molars of 389 modern specimens, and 90 teeth from four archaeological sites in Finnish Lapland. Our results indicate that despite the significant impact of wear on overall tooth morphology, our protocol is very useful for identifying subspecies (classification accuracy of the two species is between 78 and 91% depending on the wear class) and understanding the morphological changes induced by the domestication process. We suggest that the morphological variation observable among modern populations has been impacted by recent changes in herding strategies in northern Fennoscandia, and that the archaeological domesticated reindeer populations were relatively different, probably due to selection by the Sámi. This study also highlights the importance of using other direct evidence or contextual archaeological data to better trace the early evidence of a domesticated reindeer economy in northern Fennoscandia, and aid in reconstructing the socio-economic changes in Sámi populations over time.

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Series: Scientific reports
ISSN: 2045-2322
ISSN-E: 2045-2322
ISSN-L: 2045-2322
Volume: 13
Issue: 1
Article number: 6174
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-33422-6
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Funding: This research was funded by the DOMESTICATION (Domestication in Action: Tracing Archaeological Markers of Human-Animal Interaction; Academy of Finland, Project numbers: 275635 and 308322; the European Research Council, ERC Starting Grant: 756431) and DEERPAL (Humans and deer during the Palaeolithic: integrating the variability of prey ecology and ethology in the investigation of past human—environment interactions; French National Research Agency: ANR-18-CE03-0007) projects, as well as by Biodiverse Anthropocenes (the University of Oulu and the Academy of Finland Profi6 336449) and Arctic Interactions (the University of Oulu and Academy of Finland Profi4 318930) research programmes.
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)
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