Human–Reindeer Relationships and Reindeer Feeding: Perspectives from Archaeology and Reindeer Herders’ Knowledge

Anna-Kaisa Salmi, Markus Fjellström, Sirpa Niinimäki, Päivi Soppela, Sanna-Mari Kynkäänniemi, Henri Wallen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


Reindeer winter feeding is increasingly important to reindeer herders due to the effects of larger reindeer herds, fragmentation of pastures due to other land use, and climate change on the quantity and quality of winter pastures. Feeding also plays an important role in taming individuals selected for draught reindeer training. In traditional reindeer pastoralism, reindeer received supplementary fodder such as tree branches, lichen, grasses, and sedges in difficult winters. This chapter presents the earliest evidence of reindeer feeding, c. 1200 CE, through stable isotope analysis and an examination of feeding behaviour evidenced by physical activity markers in the skeleton. The role of reindeer feeding in today’s reindeer-herding practice, both for taming individuals destined for draught and racing use and for nutritional reasons in the winter, is discussed based on reindeer herders’ traditional and practical knowledge. The implications for the interpretation of the archaeological data are also explored.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDomestication in Action
Subtitle of host publicationPast and Present Human-Reindeer Interaction in Northern Fennoscandia
EditorsAnna-Kaisa Salmi
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-98643-8
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-98642-1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
MoEC publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book


  • animal feeding
  • stable isotope analysis
  • physical activity reconstruction
  • traditional knowledge

Field of science

  • Genetics, developmental biology, physiology


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