International Scientific Conference "Archeology of the Arctic"
November 19-23, 2017

Archaeological data about Russian population of the Siberian Arctic and Subarctic.

Vizgalov G.P.

OOO «Northen Archaeology-1», Nefteyugansk



Despite the fact that the first archaeological studies of the Russian settlements in the Siberian North began already in the 1920s, they still remain rather poorly studied by the archaeologists. Not more than a dozen Russian settlements have been discovered and investigated along the polar circle latitude and above. These included the towns – Mangazeya and the Staroturukhansk fort; the hillforts – Zashiversk, Alazey fortress, Stadukhin (Lower Kolyma) hillfort; Obdorsk village; the winter camps – Maloe, Khatanga, Olenok; Sims Bay and Faddei island camps; the remains of a base camp of H.P. Laptev expedition.  

Large scale archaeological excavations have been performed only in Mangazeya. Small fragments of the sites have been excavated in the Staroturukhansk fort.  Of the three hillforts the most thoroughly studied are the Stadukhin and the Alazey.  Winter camps are among the least studied sites: there were small scale excavations on the Olenok and Maloe camps. Despite the unevenness and selectivity of research the archaeological excavations of the Russian settlements in the North produced some significant results.

 In all sites in the frozen cultural level there were well preserved organic artifacts. The variety of the finds made possible a comprehensive reconstruction of the life and the economy of the Russian population in the Arctic and the Subarctic. The discovered parts of various types of boats: a polar koch, a river flat-bottomed boat of doshchanik type, a small kayuk type boat - significantly complemented the existing written sources on the Russian boat building traditions and allowed to perform the Mangazeya koch reconstruction. The finds of imported kitchenware, food, bones of domestic animals evidenced the existence of a developed river and sea navigation tradition.

The remains of structures found during the excavations in Mangazeya, Staroturukhansk,  Stadukhin and Alazey hillforts allowed reconstruction of not only individual houses, but of the whole estates.  A detailed topographic survey of winter camps on the Taimyr peninsula and the ethnographic studies in the North of Russia gave an idea of the appearance of the buildings on the base and the remote winter camps.

The paleo-ecological studies alongside with the archaeological finds lead to certain conclusions about the life-support system of the Russian population, the basis of which in all territories was fishing; there were also some data indicating the presence of animal husbandry and hunting.  It was noted that the population was not engaged in fur animals hunting in the neighborhood of the towns and hillforts.

Everyday life of the first Russian people in the north proved to be much richer, than it was assumed earlier. In the cultural level of the Russian sites there were numerous evidences of trade (blacksmith's, casting, pottery, bone and wood carving, distillation, sewing and mending of clothes and footwear, etc.). There were also evidences of various games: chess, checkers, dice, as well as evidences of elementary teaching.  

In all archaeological sites there were artifacts evidencing that the representatives of the aboriginal peoples of the Far North lived there together with the Russians. 

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