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'

Preliminary abstract: This project investigates the domestication of reindeer in the Yamal region of the Siberian Arctic. Around 2000 years ago, artifacts are found in several of the region’s archaeological sites that may be parts of reindeer harness equipment. These are L-shaped antler pieces that are very similar to those seen in modern reindeer headgear, and which fit on the deer’s foreheads to control and communicate with them while they are working. Some scholars have interpreted these archaeological objects as evidence for reindeer domestication and involvement in transport, while others argue they were merely used with tame deer employed as hunting decoys. To better assess how these objects may have been used in working with reindeer, we take several different approaches. First, the sizes and forms of the archaeological objects are compared with reindeer harness equipment collected in the historic period, now curated in ethnographic museums. Second, we examine reindeer crania from several Yamal archaeological sites to see if they exhibit deformations from repeatedly wearing harnesses during their lives. Finally, replicas of the archaeological harness pieces will be taken to a modern reindeer herding community in Yamal, where they will be evaluated by cultural experts. Combined, these three approaches will allow us to fully evaluate these intriguing objects and in turn better understand the complex history of reindeer domestication in the Arctic.