Robert J Losey

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Alberta, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 9420

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

Losey, Dr. Robert Justin, U. of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada - To aid research on 'Harnessing Reindeer Domestication in Arctic Siberia'

ROBERT J. LOSEY, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, was awarded a grant in April 2017 to aid research on ‘Harnessing Reindeer Domestication in Arctic Siberia.’ This project investigated the long-term history of reindeer domestication in the Yamal Peninsula region of Arctic Russia. Previously excavated Late Holocene reindeer remains from the region were examined for signs that these animals had been involved in pulling sleds. Overall, we found few osteological signs that reindeer were pulling sleds at any point over the last ~2000 years ago, likely due to the fact that most archaeological reindeer bone here is highly fragmented. Artifacts from Yamal thought to have been used as parts of reindeer harnesses were 3D scanned and printed in plastic. Our team then spent around one month living with Indigenous Nenets reindeer herders, discussing and evaluating these objects, and observing reindeer technologies in use. The Nenets interpreted several objects dating to around 900 years ago as identical to their modern harnessing equipment. Several 2000-year old head gear pieces were identified as markedly different than current reindeer sledding equipment. These objects were interpreted by the Nenets as head gear used in training young reindeer to become accustomed to being harnessed. Overall, their interpretations of the region’s archaeological materials suggest that small-scale domestication of reindeer for transport purposes was in place in Yamal at least 2000 years ago.