Accepted Paper:

Reindeer herding, agriculture and Sámi-Norse interactions in Iron Age and historical northern Sweden  


Ilse Mirjam Kamerling (University of Aberdeen)

Paper short abstract:

Interactions between reindeer herding Sámi and Norse farmers took place at known market towns. Little is known about interactions outside of the market towns due to scarce archaeological evidence. A palynological approach is applied here to determine the nature and timing of cultural interactions.

Paper long abstract:

The provinces of Norrbotten and Västerbotten, Northern Sweden, were originally inhabited by Sámi (semi-nomadic reindeer herder-hunters). Despite high latitudes, favourable maritime influences allowed for the development of sedentary farming. In near-coastal areas, settlement by incoming Norse agriculturalists was initiated at ca AD 500, followed by intensification during the 12th century AD and extension inland.

Interaction between the Sámi and the Norse agriculturalists is evident from archaeological finds and references in Norse mythology. Initial contact appears to have been relatively friendly: goods were traded in market places and Sámi were allowed to continue hunting in the cultivated areas. By AD 1300, however, the Sámi of Västerbotten had largely converted to Christianity and adopted Swedish surnames because those who refused were denied access to Christian-owned lands. Little is known about Sámi and Norse co-existence in the wider areas surrounding the market places, mainly due to a lack of archaeological evidence: Sámi used only few artefacts and especially those involved in reindeer herding do not preserve well. Apart from finds of Sámi camps, including hearths and slag-rich surfaces, their presence is difficult to trace.

A palynological approach is applied here to address the issue of the nature and timing of the cultural interactions. A difficulty comes in discerning and differentiating between the impacts of the Sámi and the Norse on their environment, when the palynological indications may be slight and similar for both cultures. In addition to conventional pollen analyses, proxies including coprophilous fungal spores, microscopic charcoal and sedimentology will also be presented.

Panel BH15
Querying domestication: the ethnography of human-animal entanglements