Archeological Monuments

There have been traces of a man in the North since ancient times. In the interglacial period, some human groups began settling down outside their original range. Pebble tools similar to ancient African ones have been discovered in Yakutia (Diring site). In the late Paleolithic (25,000-30,000 years ago), man reached the subpolar zone (sites Byzovaya and Berelekh), and at the end of the glacial period he came to Northern America.

During the late Paleolithic, a special cultural complex formed that used spears to hunt mammoths, reindeer, and other cold-loving animals. The bow and arrow appeared at the end of the Paleolithic, and the dog was tamed. People lived in light, above-ground dwellings or semi-mud huts, and wore fur clothing. They had mastered painting and jewelry making, and buried their dead under the floors of their huts.

In the post-glacial period 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, people started settling down in the North more frequently. They began exploring the subpolar and polar reg. in the 8-5th millennium BC. The first sites appeared in the North of Scandinavia (Komsa culture), Kola Peninnsula, the Bolshezemsk tundra (Sandibei-Yu-1), Yamal (Korchagi-1), Taimyr (Tagenar-6), and the Kolyma lowlands (Sumnagin Culture). The original range was varied: central Europe, Volga-Oka and Volga-Kama basins, taiga zone of Western Siberia, and the Lena valley. These directions of migration and culture remained significant up to the early Stone Age. Latitudinal migration and contacts were very important in the taiga-tundra zone from the Ob lowlands to the White Sea from the end of the 3d millennium BC. By this route migratory groups and cultural innovations moved from the Northern Urals far to the West. However, in the Eastern outskirts of Eurasia and in the America’s North, migrations West to East were most important: to Sakhalin (c.10,000-12,000 years ago), from the interior areas to the Okhotsk coast, and to Kamchatka and Chukotka in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. The Kuril Islands and America’s Arctic were settled at the end of the 3rd and beg. of the 2nd millennium BC, while ancient Inuit settled in the Canadian polar zone from the late 1st millennium to early 2nd millennium AD.
Northern peoples were complex and of mixed composition, and often accepted newcomers from the South.

Archeological data lead us to believe that an asbestos ceramics culture was at the root of the Saami ethnogeny; the ancient traces of Ob Ugrians in the Ob lowlands reflect the Ust-Polui Culture; Samodian movement to the N is traced in the mat. of the Kulaika culture and Relka culture; and the settling of Yukagir ancestors in Eastern Siberia may be linked to the Ymyiakhtakh and Ust-Mil culture. Tungusic roots date back to the Neolithic culture of the Baikal area, while ancestors of non-migrating lower Amur fishermen (incl. Nivkhs) created the Kondon culture. There are also evidences of the Old Koryak culture and the Old Itelmen culture.

The ancient inhabitants of the subpolar and polar zones were hunters, fishermen, and collectors. They mainly hunted elk in taiga and sporadically hunted deer in the tundra (see Korshak culture). Expert deer hunters appeared in Taimyr in the 4th millennium BC, and in Chukotka in the 2nd millennium BC. They hunted on migratory routes, espesially at river crossings, and used boats. In the taiga zone of Eastern Siberia, poeple began using a long heavy bow in the 7-6th millennium BC. During the Mesolithic period, domestic dogs appeared in many areas, often used for food but sometimes for hunt.
Beginning with the Mesolithic period, taiga groups started to specialize in fishing and became more settled. In the North of Eastern Europe, vegetative fiber nets, fishhooks, and harpoons were used as early as the 8-7th millennium BC. Locks were used in rivers since the 3-2nd millennium BC, which can be seen in drawings. In the Kola Peninsula and in Northern Scandinavia, stone installations for fishing were erected in the 1st millennium BC. Specialized fishing arose later in Siberia: on the lower Amur in the 5-3rd millennia BC, in Sakhalin in the 3-2nd millennium, in the Maritime territory and Kamchatka in the 1st millennium, and in the Ob lowlands in the second half of the 1st millennium BC.

With time, the people of the arctic and subarctic maritime areas started to specialize in sea-animal hunting. The Kola Peninsula and White Sea area adopted this practice in the 2nd-early 1st millennium BC, as is proved by the White Sea petroglyphs ( Ponoi Inscriptions). Seal hunting came to the Kurils at the same time, and to the Sea of Okhotsk, the Bering Sea areas, and the America’s Arctic in the 1st millennium BC. Seal-hunting in the Yamal Peninsula has existed since the same time.

The success of fishing and seal hunting in maritime areas largely depended on climate, the changes in which can be traced by the periods of prosperity and decline in ancient archeological culture. In warmer times, the maritime arctic groups had an advantage, since migration routes of salmon and sea animals moved to the North and harvest conditions in Northern latitudes improved. At the same time, fishermen of the Far East had poor catches, and there was deterioration of pastures and of numbers of deer in the tundra. Cooler periods pushed cold-loving animals and fish to the S, which was advantageous for Kamchatkan and other Far Eastern fishermen, as well as hunters on the interior tundra. But hunting conditions along the arctic seacoasts deteriorated sharply. Many coastal groups moved to the South or to the interior tundra, changing their types of activity. Intensive fishing, especially sea fishing, contributing to boat building. Manually operated sleds appeared in the North of Eastern Europe. in the 8-7th millennium BC. Messenger teams could be used only by settled fishing and sea-hunting culture capable of providing food regularly; these first appeared at the beginning of our era in the Ob lowlands. They were then adopted by the Okhotsk culture founders, by the Lapps in the 1st millennium AD, by the ancient Koryaks at the beginning of the 2nd millenium, and by Itelmens and Eskimos in the 17-18th cent. Cargo sleds were widespread in Siberia in the 17-18th centuries during the Russia’s colonization.

Highly productive settled or semisettled fishing and seal hunting led to an increase in population, enlargement of settlements, and the building of sturdy semi-mud huts. There was a marked tendency to pass from round and oval building to square and rectangular ones. These also grew in size, reaching 10-200 sq m in later times. Settlements could consist of dozens of such dwellings.
Reindeer herding went through several stages in the N. First, some deer were tamed for hunting: deer-lures were used in the Ob lowlands at the beginning of our era. Later, small deer herds were kept for transportation, and this type of reindeer herding became increasingly popular in the taiga zone due to Samodian and Tungusic settlements in the 1st—early 2nd millennium AD. Saami of the highlands started practicing reindeer herding at the same time. The transition to large-scale reindeer herding, typical for modern Nenetses, Chukchi, and Koryaks, occurred in the tundra in the 17-18th cent., largely due to the decline in the number of reindeer.

Pottery and metallurgy have existed in the subpolar and polar zones since ancient times. The Amur area is one of the most ancient pottery sites in the world (10,000-12,000 years ago). Pottery came to the taiga zone of Eastern Europe and Siberia from the South in the 4th millennium BC, while to the Okhotsk coast and the ancient Eskimo zone it came only in the 1st millennium BC. Northern culture became acquainted with metals at the end of the 3rd millennium BC; the first copper and bronze articles came here from the South. By the 2-1st millennium BC, their production was widespread in Taimyr, Eastern Siberia, Chukotka, and the Maritime zone. Iron metallurgy came to the subpolar and polar zones in the second half of the 1st millennium BC; by the end of that period, iron articles could be found on the Okhotsk coast, and by the end of the 1st millennium AD in the ancient Eskimo cult. zone. At the same time, stone tool production declined. During the last 2,000-3,000 years, internal cultural exchanges have pushed some Northern peoples (like the Saami) to stop producing pottery and metal art and to trade for them instead. C.2,000 yreas ago, the Saami dropped pottery; the people of the Ob lowlands did so 1,000 yrs. ago. Local metal processing disappeared in many settlements in the 2nd millennium AD. This is why, at one time, experts who had only ethnographic data, thought the peoples of the North had never mastered pottery or metalworking.

Population growth, economic crises caused by climate changes, and periodic migrations from the South caused fights for fishing and hunting. Grounds, which often turned into armed clashes that archeologists date as far back as the 1st millennium BC in Chukotka, and the 1st-2nd millennium BC on the Okhotsk coast and Bering Sea area. Fortified towns began to appear, under the influence of South culture, and Eastern Siberia and maritime people started using metal tools and armor in the 1st millennium BC.