The Appreciation of Reindeer: Rock Carvings and Sami Reindeer Knowledge
Marianne Skandfer [+]
Tromsø Museum – The University Museum, UIT - The Arctic University of Norway
On the Stone Age rock carving panels at Jiepmaluokta, Alta, Norway, more than one third of all the known figures, over one thousand, are classified as reindeer. A recent comparative study of Fennoscandian rock carvings suggests that variation in amounts of different animals depicted at each site refers to differences in relations between people and the specific local environment, including local species (Gjerde 2010). Taking this as a starting point, it is suggested that the Jiepmaluokta panels refer to meetings between humans and animals, here primarily reindeer. The depictions are interpreted as expressions of a hunter-gatherer ontology with close human-animal relations. This paper is based in part on a dialogue at the site regarding the depictions of reindeer figures between a Sámi reindeer owner with summer grazing for his herd in the Alta region as well as being a scholar of traditional reindeer knowledge, and the archaeologist author.