Reindeer corrals 4700–4200 BC: Myth or reality

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Reindeer corrals 4700–4200 BC: Myth or reality
  Reindeer corrals 4700 e 4200 BC: Myth or reality? Knut Helskog The University of Tromso, Tromso University Museum, Lars Thoringsvei 10, 9037 Tromso, Norway a r t i c l e i n f o  Article history: Available online 12 November 2010 a b s t r a c t Reindeer have always been one of the important subsistence resources in northernmost Europe. Drivingdomestic animals into corrals to separate, distribute, and slaughter them according to ownership, isa continuation of a prehistoric practise that was linked to hunting and possibly, to acquire reindeer asdecoys and for transportation. The only evidence of such prehistoric constructions and practice innorthernmost Europe is nine  󿬁 gures of corrals and drive lanes in the rock art in Alta, Arctic Norway.These  󿬁 gures are a part of communication between humans, and humans and non-humans, within anunderstanding of what was needed for procuring reindeer that probably was somewhat different fromtoday. Some of the  󿬁 gures associated with the corrals are not connected with driving and killing reindeerseen from a modern context, but their association indicates connections once existed, if not in drivingand killing, then in narratives, myths and rituals.   2010 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved. 1. Introduction Reindeer were one of the mainstays of the hunter- 󿬁 sher-gatherdiet in northern Norway (Fig. 1). Accounts describe the huntsduring the spring and fall (before the rutting season) between thewinter and summer pastures (Tanner, 1929: 137 0 , 220 0 , 359;Tegengren,1952:89 e 100;Vorren,1998)asmostimportant.Thefallanimals were fat, strong, and their fur was at its best for makingclothes. The spring animals were meagre after feeding on moss allwinter. Besides the accounts, the historic evidence consists of remains of bones and antlers, projectile points, systems of huntingpits, corrals or enclosures and fences (Vorren, 1944, 1958, 1998;Hansen and Olsen, 2006). The known fences and systems of hunting pits are located in the migration routes of the reindeer,especiallyat places wherefeatures in the terrain  “ lead ”  the animalstocon 󿬁 nedareaswheretheyaretrappedandkilled.Suchplacesarenarrow passages between lakes, between steep rock surfaces andlakes, areas where the herds cross lakes, and the areas between thebase of the fjords in the province of Finnmark where the animalsmigrated between the coast and the inland. Enclosures such ascorrals are located in a more open terrain, a location that requiresa comparatively larger number of hunters to control the drive of animals into the enclosures, as well as fences or rows of poles thatlead them into the opening. Good examples of historic huntingconstructions are thelargeenclosures and systemof fences and thepitfall systems (Fig. 2) in Varanger in northeast Norway (Vorren, 1944, 1958, 1998). Similar to the above, variation in hunting tech-niquesiscommon in Eurasia totheeast fromthe Nganasanhuntersonthe Taimyr Peninsula (Popov,1966) totheChukchee(Tegengren, 1952: 89 e 110; Bogoras, 1975). The prehistoric evidence consistslikewise of bones and antlers, projectile points, systems of huntingpits (Simonsen,1961; Simonsen and Odner,1963; Engelstad,1983;Furuset, 1996; Halinen, 2005; Hesjedal et al., 2010), and corralspecked into rock surfaces possibly as far back as 6400 BP (Helskog,1977,1988). This paper is about the  󿬁 gures that are pecked into therock surfaces (Figs. 4 e 10).Pitfall systems in the interior of northern Scandinavia are sug-gested to have been used from the late Mesolithic, ca. 7000 BP(Furuset,1995,1996;Halinen,2005:82 e 94),whileenclosures,suchas corrals have only been found depicted in rock art from 4300 to3700 BC, approximately (Helskog, 1977, 1988, nd). This is 6000years earlier than the 17th century AD, with the earliest directhistoric evidence for corrals in North Norway (Vorren,1958, 1998;Simonsen, 1977, 1996). In an account to King Alfred of England in890 AD, the North Norwegian chieftain Ottar told that he had 600tamereindeertendedbySamiinhisservice(Simonsen,1977,1996).He did not mention any form of corral, but one might assume thatsome form for enclosure was involved part of the time. Drivingreindeer into corrals as practised among the present pastoralreindeer Sami (Fig. 3) (Turi,1910: Table III), is similar to an hunting technique practised by hunters in the Old as well as in the NewWorld (Blehr,1990; Gordon,1990). The difference is simply that thehunters killed most if not all animals, while the pastoralists sepa-rate and maintain herds, and slaughter animals according toownership and need. E-mail address: Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Quaternary International journal homepage: 1040-6182/$  e  see front matter    2010 Elsevier Ltd and INQUA. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2010.10.001 Quaternary International 238 (2011) 25 e 34  Sami populations in northern Scandinavia both hunted wildreindeer and tended small herds, a dual practise that seem to havebeencommonuntilthewildreindeerhadbeenexterminatedinthedifferent areas 1700 e 1800 AD, and the domestic herds of somegroupsbecamelarge,whileothersfocusedmoreontheexploitationof marine resources. In essence, subsistence was based on variouscombinations of hunting (including reindeer),  󿬁 shing, tendingdomesticreindeer,andgathering.Reindeerwasalwaysapartofthediet, and judging from parts of harness at the site Ust ’ Polui inwestern Russia, usingtamedanimalsasmeans of transport, suchasridingorhaving reindeer with pack saddle, existed in the early IronAge in the 3rd century BC (Moshinskaia, 1953). Finds of sledgerunners indicate the reindeer might have been used as draughtanimals from the Mesolithic (8000 BP) onwards (Burov, 1989;Aronsson,1991; Khlobystin, 2005: 188 e 191).From the prehistoric evidence, reindeer was an importantresource, always exploited, but prehistoric corrals or drive fenceshave only been recognized in rock art. The rock art also depicts theexploitation of other animals, besides ritual performances, boatsand implements, and inferred social organization, behaviour andbeliefs. Given that the  󿬁 gures (for example) of reindeer, elk, bears,and boats appear to be good representations of real animals andboats, it is likely that the depicted enclosures also are copies of corrals thatexisted. The correspondence in details betweenwhat isknown from the ethnographic record and the  󿬁 gures are toonumerous for any other conclusion (Turi, 1910; Blehr, 1990b;Gordon, 1990; Vorren, 1998). As such, it should be possible todraw some conclusions about relationships between humans,reindeer and techniques of driving reindeer. Furthermore, corralsassociated with hunting and gathering reindeer are depicted onritual drums from the 1600s to 1700s. These were drums used bythe Sami shamans and leaders of households to contact spirits andpowers other than humans, for the purpose of divination, healingor rites of transition (Manker, 1938, 1950, 1965; Bäckman andHultkrantz, 1978; Bäckman and Pirak, 1982; Bäckman, 1987). Inessence, the corrals on the drums were integrated with other 󿬁 gures and the sound of the drum for multiple purposes, and thequestion might be raised if similar relationships existed in thearea ’ s prehistory. The  󿬁 gures on the drums depict gods and spirits, Fig.1.  Locational map. Dots equal localities with rock art of which the most importantare the localities at Hjemmeluft and Kåfjord. The square is Alta, the centre of themunicipality. The reindeer move into the fjord area and along both sides during thespring and the fall on their way between the inland and the coast. The dotted lineshows the present main migration route of the domestic reindeer west of the Altafjord. Graphics: Ernst Högtun. Fig. 2.  Two of the large hunting corrals at the Varanger peninsula east of Alta. The fully drawn lines signify fences of stones and the crosses are lead lines made of cairns. In additionthere are hunting hides and cairns, all of stone. (Vorren, 1958) K. Helskog / Quaternary International 238 (2011) 25 e  34 26  shamans, people and churches, reindeer and bear, and some mightbe positioned in relation to how the universe was conceived to bedivided. The Sami in the 1600s and 1700s used corrals whenhunting and tending reindeer. Altogether, the  󿬁 gures and thedrums appear to integrate sounds, myths  e  the past  e  and thepresent life and practise in beliefs and ritual performances.The nine  󿬁 gures of enclosures are all on the west side of theinnermost part of the Alta fjord, six in the Hjemmeluft area andthree in Kåfjord (Fig. 1). This side of the fjord is steep, and wouldhave been less accessible when the sea level was 20 m higher 6000years ago. The main routes of the migrating reindeer would havebeen in the area to the south and in the mountains on both sides of  Fig. 3.  A corral for gathering and separating domestic reindeer in the fall. The animals will be separated intothree herds according to ownership. The fence is made of braided birch.Drawing by Turi (1910). Fig. 4.  The two enclosures with lead lines at Kåfjord in Alta. The large corral is at the lower right and the smaller at the upper left. Both have lead lines of stone or wood. Inside thelarge corral a bear has entered a den, it is fall. Note the human-like  󿬁 gures with spears (?) near the opening on both corrals and the human-like  󿬁 gure with a spear (?) is standing onthe inside of the largest corral. Scanning by Metimur in Gothenburg, Sweden, and enhancement of the  󿬁 gures by the author. K. Helskog / Quaternary International 238 (2011) 25 e  34  27  the fjord (Paine,1994). It is in these areas one should expect to  󿬁 ndremains of corrals. 2. Age of the corrals The  󿬁 gures are pecked into sloping surfaces of compact graysandstone and brown green striped slate, both with glacial stria-tions across the surfaces. Some small sections are polished byglacial melt water mixed with sand under high pressure. A few of the  󿬁 gures indicate wear caused by water, snow, ice and freezingandthawingbutinnocasesarethe 󿬁 guresworntoextentsequaltothat on the surrounding natural surfaces. Figures were made whenthese surfaces were located in the tidal zone, and the date of thetidal zone provides a key to the chronology because the land rosewhen the weight of the continental ice-sheet disappeared(Marthinussen, 1960, 1974). This means that the higher an ancienttidal zone is above the present sea level, the older it is. Most 󿬁 guresappear to have been made within an approximately 1.5 m-highzone above mean tide, including spring tides and wave action. Thewidth of the zone depended on the gradient of the terrain, and it isalways free of vegetation due to the salt ocean water. It was and isfree from snow during winter and accessible for making rock artthroughout year. The  󿬁 gures were unlikely to have been made inthe low tide zone with its growth of brown algae. Above the tidalzone, various form of vegetationwould gradually take hold and themaking of rock art might have required removal of soils andvegetation. Finally, it must be emphasized that the coastal andfjordal waters did and do notfreeze during winterdue tothe warmwaters of the Gulf Stream. Fig. 5.  The large corral at the panel Bergbukten I. Note the opening at two sides andthe perpendicular  “ barriers ”  along the side. On the inside there are, in addition toreindeer, a human-like  󿬁 gure pointing a spear at a reindeer, two boats and Europeanelk. Drawing: Ernst Högtun. Fig. 6.  The small corral at Kåfjord with the three possible bear  󿬁 gures. Note the barrieroutside the opening. A human-like  󿬁 gure is standing on the outside to the right.Scanning by Metimur and enhancement of the  󿬁 gures by the author. Fig. 7.  A corral with reindeer, and a barrier outside the opening, at Bergheim I. Notethe compass on the upper right for a scale. The  󿬁 gures are chalked. It appears to bepossible to open to corral at two other places in the fence. On another section of thepanel there is another circle with indications of similar openings. The circle is stronglyeroded and it has not been possible to recognise any reindeer on the inside. Photo:Knut Helskog. Fig. 8.  A small corral with reindeer on the inside at Ole Pedersen I. One of the reindeeris connected to a circular  󿬁 gure on the ground, as if a pond of blood. The  󿬁 gures arechalked. Photo: Knut Helskog. K. Helskog / Quaternary International 238 (2011) 25 e  34 28  The  󿬁 gures, pecked into the rock surfaces, are found at fourdifferent localities from 8.5 to 26 m above the present sea level.Theyaregroupedinto5diachronicphasesbyprofoundanddistinctdifferencesin content, morphologyandstyle,situatedashorizontallayers in a cake (Helskog, 1983, 1988, 2000). The changes in formand content according to altitude are so obvious that a statisticalanalysis to explore for chronological patterns became a veri 󿬁 cationof what can be seen by the naked eye in the  󿬁 eld. Furthermore, theshore-boundedness of the different phases indicates that themaking of   󿬁 gures in general ceased not long after the rising formershore had lost direct contact with water. New surfaces then cameinto use.The combination of radiocarbon dates from archaeological sitesintheareaandgeologicalevidenceledOlsen(1994:47)toarguefora late Mesolithic date for the  󿬁 gures in the oldest phase. Gjerde(2010: 247 e 256) speci 󿬁 ed a range from 5300 to 4200 BC, i.e.from the late Mesolithic and into the early Younger Stone Age. Thecorrals belong to this oldest phase but they are not among thehighest situated  󿬁 gures. The date of the Holocene shore level alti-tudes is based on organic deposits in the shore areas and archae-ological sites on the shores themselves. The oldest engravings at26.5 m above the present sea level could have been made duringthe formation of the Tapes terrace at 28 m (Marthinussen, 1960).According to Corner et al. (1990), this terrace was formed duringa 1 e 2 m standstill between 9500 and 7000  14 C BP (approximately8500 e 6000 cal. BC) which is approximately 1000 years older thanthe 6000 BP date suggested by Möller and Holmeslett (1998). Thedate set by Møller and Holmeslett appears to be based mainly ondata from the outer coastal area where the Tapes transgressionpeaked later than in inner areas because the balance between landrise and rising sea level was different than at the coast, i.e. the landrose faster in inner than in the outer areas. Therefore, the dateneeds to be corrected (Corner, personal communication). Waves inthe mean to high tide zone in the inner part of the Alta fjord wouldhave been washing over the rock surfaces where the  󿬁 rst engrav-ings were made when sea level lay 26 e 27 m higher than today. Assuch, the maximum date for the few carvings located above 26 mcan in theory extend back to the earliest settlements in the area.The majority of the carvings, however, must be younger.The corrals could have been made when mean tide level was23 e 24 m above the present level. The continued rate of land upliftindicates a date for the 24 m isobase according to Möller andHolmeslett (1998) of approximately 4200 e 4000 cal BC, or4700 e 4500 BC adding at least 500 years, as suggested by Corner(personal communication). This gives a maximum date for thecorrals, while the 23 m level might represent a minimum date of approximately 4300 e 4200 BC. In any case, the corrals are olderthan the earliest carvings of the next phase, which could have beenmade when mean tide level was approximately 20 m above thepresent sea level, at approximately 4200 BC. This is within theapproximate range 4700 e 4200 BC, which is when the corralsappeartohavebeenmade,giventhatthey weremadeinthemean-high tidal zone.A recent collected charcoal sample (northern pine) collectedfrom the upper part of a settlement dug by Nummedal (1929) in1925 gave a date of 3980 e 3790 BC (WK-20773). The lowest part of thesettlement,atapproximately25ma.s.l.,indicatesthatthemeanhigh tide was at minimum 1 m lower. This makes it possible thattheinhabitantscouldhavemade 󿬁 gureswhenthemeantidewasatapproximately 20 m above the present position. As such, the sitemight be contemporaneous with the corral (Fig. 8) at the adjacentpanel OlePedersen Ia few meters tothenorthwest, orrepresentanoccupationthatcanbeassociatedwiththeoldestcarvingsbetween21 and 18 m above the present mean tide. The locality is probablytoo exposed towards the north to have been occupied during thewinter.In the western area of Hjemmeluft, three shallow rectangulardepressions from prehistoric houses are located on the Tapesterrace at 28 m a.s.l., which means that they could be associatedwith the carvings at 26 m a.s.l. or lower. They have not yet beenexcavated, but the depressions appear to be similar in shape to theMesolithic houses dated to 7000 e 6500 BC that were excavated400 km to the west (Skandfer et al., 2010). Given that the standstilllasted for approximately 2500 years with a 1 e 2 m  󿬂 uctuation, itmight be unlikely that the houses at Hjemmeluft are equally old, asthey might have been too close or inundated by water in the earlypart of the period. They can, however, be contemporaneous withthe earliest carved  󿬁 gures. In essence, even though much researchremains to connect rock art, shore-displacement and tidal zonesand settlements, the data indicate that the chronology of the rockart needs to be revised and that corrals could have been depictedearly in the  󿬁 fth millennium BC. Fig. 9.  A small corral at Bergbukten VIIB. Fig.10.  A small corral/enclosure with a long corridor-like opening that begins betweencrystals of quartz at Bergbukten IVA. In the innermost section the front part of tworeindeer appears to be integrated into the fence. The lines are 4 e 5 mm wide. Photo:Knut Helskog. K. Helskog / Quaternary International 238 (2011) 25 e  34  29
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