History of Sami society and reindeer herding in northern Fennoscandia in light of the coprophilous fungal spores

M S Kuoppamaa, Kjell-Åke Aronsson

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterScientific


Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is the most dominant large herbivore affecting the vegetation of the northern Fennoscandia. The combined human-animal agency e.g. concentrated grazing and trampling by semi-domesticated reindeer herds, has changed the vegetation by creating graminoid-dominated green patches throughout the Arctic, especially in Fennoscandia and northern Russia. The effect of these activities on local vegetation may persist for centuries.
Suollagavallda site is located in the Scandinavian Alpine area in northern Sweden. The study area is in a mountain valley with numerous ancient dwelling sites indicated by several Stallo foundations and stone hearths. The discussion in recent decades have been whether these settlements are remains of the camp sites of wild reindeer hunters or represent an early phase of reindeer herding and pastoralism with settlement, even during winter. The site has been chosen for a high-resolution pollen and coprophilous fungal spore analysis, because the archaeology itself does not reveal much about the history of activities on site during the late Iron Age and Early Medieval Period. Our hypothesis is, that Sami have also practiced reindeer milking in the area during the summer months, and the animals have been kept on site for several weeks at the time, year after year repeatedly over several generations, which has had its effect on the vegetation structure, cover, and composition.
The abandoned milking sites can usually be spotted from the surrounding areas because of their rich herb flora. The vegetation change can be very persistent. Several ecological mechanisms contribute to the long-term stability of the historical milking grounds. Recent studies from the Netherlands also show that there is a significant relationship between the coprophilous fungal spore abundance and local biomass densities of herbivores that can be used in the calibration of fossil records.
The results from Suollagavallda profile show a peak of coprophilous fungal spore Sporormiella along with a decline in the percentages of Betula and Salix pollen, and an increase in Juniperus and Rumex which are good palynological indicators of grazing in the area. The pattern is very similar to some earlier observations from other reindeer herding sites in Sweden. The high percentage of coprophilous fungal spores in the analyzed samples suggests that the method can be used to date the timing and duration of reindeer milking in the Suollagavallda valley.
Translated title of the contributionSaamelaisyhteisön ja poropaimentolaisuuden historia Pohjois-Fennoskandiassa lannan hajoittajasienten itiöiden valossa
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoEC publication typeNot Eligible
Duration: 12 Aug 201817 Aug 2018
Conference number: 10


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Field of science

  • Environmental sciences

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