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

“There are women in Russian villages…” (on matrimonial relations between the residents of Mangazeya and the aboriginal population of the Ob North.

S.G. Parkhimovich

NPO "Northern Archeology-1", Tyumen




From the documents of the first third of the 17th century it is known that the first Russian settlers in the Siberian North suffered from a significant scarcity of marriage partners in a new place of life. Some married on their way to Siberia while still in the European part of Russia, others bought non-Russian women already in Siberia, baptized and married them. In one of the petitions to the Tsar the Yenisei peasants-colonizers complained that it was difficult for them to work and manage a household at the same time: "... we have not a single moment of rest! But if, our Tsar, we... had wives and were relieved from at least the house work..., and without wives... we cannot be at all" [Butsynsky,1999. 269-270 p.]

Another evidence of the fact that for the Mangazeya residents marrying the aboriginal women was standard practice was a mention in one of the petitions alongside with "our poor wives" of the "Samoyad wives" [Bakhrushin,1955. P. 196]. Another petition described a story of a Samoyad woman from the Pyak family who after the death of her husband - a Mangazeya soldier Onisim - together with her "Russian children" was rejected by her blood relatives and asked to be allowed to move to "Obdor ... to the Russian people" [Obdor land..., 2004] P. 34].

During the Mangazeya hillfort excavations by the NPO "Northern Archeology-1" expedition in 2001-2009 and 2011-2014 in addition to the main body of the "Russian origin" items the archaeologists found dozens of items which obviously belonged to the aboriginal cultures of the Ob North. These included the "beaters" for beating off snow from clothes and footwear made from the sawn in half curved pieced of antlers (Fig. 1-8), ornamental matting grass fiber strips (Fig. 1-7), a part of deerskin deerskin bootleg with geometric ornament formed by sewn together two-colored strips (Fig. 1-6), as well as fragments of over 20 ornamented birch-bark boxes (Fig.2).

The ornamentation technique used for decoration of these boxes consisted in scraping along the lines made with a sharp knife (16 pieces), open-work carving with an underlying background (2 pieces), application made from light decorative strips sewn to the dark sides of the boxes (at least 3 pieces) and painting (1 piece).

Compositions, patterns and elements were quite varied: borders on the walls of cylindrical boxes and at the edges of the rectangular ones, rosettes in the center of rectangular boxes; straight and curved lines, continuous and discontinuous motifs (Fig. 1-1, 4-5).

Similar ornaments could be found in the ethnographic materials of the Northern Khanty. Certain elements and motifs occurred also in the ornamental heritage of the Samody groups of which only the forest Nenets (Pyaks) and the Selkups made ornamented birch-bark kitchenware [Ryndina, 1995. Fig. 7,8].

The archaeological analogues to the birch bark ornaments, including the styled bear images were found during the excavations of the Polui cape hillfort in Salekhard [Kardash, 2013. P.188-192  Fig. 3.20-3.23, 3.28, 3.29, 3.34-1] and the Nadym hillfort in the end of the 16th - 18th century levels and interpreted as belonging to the North Khanty artifacts [op cit, 2009. P. 171-172  Fig. 3.47-3.50]. In the same settlements the identical to the Mangazeya ones antler "beaters" and fragments of wicker grass mats were also found [op cit, 2009. P. 133, 175. Fig. 3.3 – 5-8, 3.53 – 6; op cit, 2013. P. 171-162  Fig. 3.01 – 7-12, 3.37].

The presence in the Mangazeya materials of blanks, waste (Fig. 2) and unfinished ornamented birch-bark boxes gave evidence to the fact that these items could be made "on the spot" by the North Khanty wives.

These circumstances and the written sources evidence of close contacts between the Mangazeya residents and the aboriginal population of Berezovo and Mangazeya districts in the 17th century in general, and the people living in those hillforts in particular, gave indication of the probable "places of origin" of the aboriginal wives. Cohabitation in the Nadym hillfort of the representatives of the Khanty and the Samody tundra and forest clans (the Yuraks and the Pyaks) could explain the differences in the ethnic identity of the Samoyad women referred to in the documents and the "Ostyak women" (from the Northern Khanty) according to the archaeological materials from Mangazeya hillfort.



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  4. O.V. Kardash. Princes Taishins' Polui cape hillfort - Ekaterinburg- Salekhard: "Magellan" Press, 2013. - 380 p.
  5. Obdor land and Mangazeya in the 17th century. Selected documents. - Ekaterinburg: "Thesis" Press, 2004. - 200 p.
  6. O.M. Ryndina. Ornament // Essays on culture genesis of the peoples of Western Siberia. Vol. 3. – Tomsk: Novosibirsk University Press, 1995. - 640 p.

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