Institute of the North Development, SB RAS, Tyumen
PEOPLES OF THE NORTH AND THEIR IMPACT ON WEST SIBERIAN LANDSCAPE TRANSFORMATION
The problem raised in the paper represents an interface between ethnic ecology, ecological history, cultural geography and archeology. It seems that its practical relevance is best of all demonstrated within the ethno-archaeological studies framework.
For a long time it was generally assumed that the pre-industrial non-agricultural societies living in small groups could hardly have a significant impact on the environment. An American geographer K. Sauer was one of the first to demonstrate on the North American forest and prairies landscapes example what a significant role in their formation was played by burning out and grass fires practiced for centuries by local Indian tribes [Sauer, 1971. P. 282-284].
A study of this problem on the Siberian North ethnography materials may be both practicable and informative owing to a relative simplicity of the local population's life support systems, as well as the rather limited opportunities and needs to modify the natural landscape. Main motivations stimulating landscape modification activities of the northern peoples of Siberia included: improvement of the natural resources harvesting productivity; development of communication routes; creation of comfortable living conditions and strengthening security. Here we list the most common types of traditional occupations which could potentially have a transformational effect on the environment.
Some types of activities (e.g. intentional grassland fires, hydro-technical works) were practiced by the indigenous peoples of Western Siberia only within certain rather limited territories. A significant role in this was played by the worldview attitudes supporting certain types of landscape transformation actions, or on the contrary, preventing such actions.
Sauer C. (К. Соер) Sixteenth century North America: The land and the people as seen by the Europeans. – Berkeley: University of California press, 1971. – 320 p.