Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) is one of the mammal species most closely tied to alpine glaciers and snow patches. During hot summer days, reindeer aggregate on such patches of ice and snow to cool off and escape insect harassment. Through thousands of years traces of these animals have been left in the ice in the form of droppings, fur and shed antlers.
This behavior have been known to humans for a long time and the sites have been attractive to reindeer hunters which have left traces of their hunting activities in the ice as well. Even today, such sites are used by reindeer herders to gather and mark animals.
The Frozen Fauna project is closely tied to an ongoing postdoc project, by Jørgen Rosvold, on the history of wild and domestic reindeer in Norway: «Hunting domestic reindeer – tracing and intimate relationship between humans and reindeer through space and time«.
The project aims to make use of the well preserved reindeer remains found in ice patches to provide genetic information on past reindeer populations. In addition, the project will investigate reindeer remains from old bone deposits and Medieval trading sites. The project has four main objectives:
– Expand the geographic and temporal resolution of the ancient reindeer DNA data.
– Locate the ancient wild reindeer populations that were involved in the domestication process.
– Investigate old cultural and economic traditions tied to the use of reindeer.
– Use these data to explore factors that have been important in shaping the present structure of wild reindeer populations in Norway.