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

Hearths and ovens the maritime cultures of the North-East Asia (3500 – 1000 Y.A.)

А.А. Orekhov 

Magadan regional Museum of local lore, Magadan




In the literature on the ancient maritime cultures of the North-East Asia there are a number of rather poorly researched categories of objects. One of these categories includes the hearths and ovens: their structure, function, historical and cultural, ethnocultural and religious traditions. At the same time all scholars recognize the importance of a hearth as the center of life-support systems, and the economic and religious life of the people.

The problem of obtaining blubber by the representatives of the ancient maritime cultures stayed largely outside the sphere of interest of the archaeologists.  However this understanding could be quite valuable in view of the importance of blubber in a life support system.

The widely known circular hearths could have been used for blubber rendering from pieces of the animals' tissue placed in ceramic pots. It would have been logical to assume that the population of the coastal territories invented some more efficient and rational methods.

The simplest devices for cooking meat and, possibly, also for blubber rendering used by the Itelmen and the Kereks were  the pits lined with flat stones [Krasheninnikov, 1947; Leontjev, 1983]. First a fire was made to heat the stones, after which the coals were removed and the whole carcass of an animal was placed into the pit and the rendered fat was scooped out. A similar method was practiced in Norway until the 18th century. The structure, size, and stratigraphy of these stone ovens also gave reasons to assume their possible use for blubber rendering. Some of the ovens of the North-East of Asia cultures have been well studied including 9 Lakhtina culture  ovens and 5 ovens of the Old Koryak culture. The sizes of the Lakhtina culture ovens varied: the width varied from  0.2 m to 0.9 m; the length - from 0.3 to 1.2 m; and the height from 0.31 m to 0.73 m. The ovens were made in the form of a rectangular pit with the walls lined with stone slabs fixed with a clay and pebbles mixture. The slabs' thickness varied from 0.08 to 0.12 m.

The structure and the sizes of the Old Koryak ovens were similar to the Lakhtina ones (the Old Kerek), which, apparently, was a result of an influence since the Lakhtina culture ovens were dated as the earlier ones - around 3,300 y.a. (Lakhtina 1 settlement, the North-West Beringia). One of the differences was that the Old Koryak ovens were located inside the houses alongside with the circular heaths, whereas the Lakhtina ones were placed outside near the houses.  Not every Old Koryak house had an oven. The Lakhtina ovens were completely buried into the ground, and the Old Koryak ones - only to a half of their height.

In general it is necessary to perform a dedicated study of the heaths and ovens.



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Krasheninnikov S.P. Description of the Kamchatka land. – М-L.: "Glavsermorput" Press, 1949. – 833 p.

Leontjev V.V. The Kerek ethnography and folklore. – M.: Nauka, 1983. – 116 p.

Orekhov A.A. Ancient culture of the North-West Beringia. – M.: Nauka, 1987. – 174 p.

Orekhov A.A. Preliminary results of the cape Alevina ancient settlements (The Okhot sea coast. Old Koryak culture) // Archeology of the north of the Far East / Ed. A.I. Lebedintsev. – Magadan: North-Eastern Integrated Research Institute, 1999. – PP. 60-80.


Figure 1: The Lakhtin culture ovens (Orianda 1): left top - a small oven profile; left bottom - small oven plan; right top - large oven profile; right bottom - large oven plan. Legend: 1 – turf; 2 – light-brown sand loam; 3 – light-brown sand loam with pebbles; 4 – cultural level, dark brown sand loam with coals; 5 – small pebbles; 6 – clay with pebbles; 7 – oven filling, dark brown sand loam with the sea mammals bones; 8 – coals.

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