Domestication in Action – Tracing Archaeological Markers of Human-Animal Interaction

Faculty of Humanities

Domestication in Action project brings together researchers from various fields to create new methods and concepts for identification and interpretation of animal domestication, with a case study pertaining to reindeer domestication among the indigenous Sámi in northern Fennoscandia. Instead of traditional identification methods and definitions of domestication, we focus on interactions between humans and animals as markers of domestication. We focus on creating methods for identification of human-reindeer interactions in the archaeological record. The methodological knowhow of the researchers currently engaged in the project includes physical activity reconstruction through entheseal changes, pathological lesions and bone cross-sections, analysis of stable isotopes, aDNA analysis, geometric morphometrics and landscape archaeology. We also engage in participatory research among reindeer herders to understand human-reindeer interaction in the context of present-day racing reindeer training and racing. Finally, the methods and insights gained will be applied to archaeological assemblages and the results will be checked against aDNA data to examine changing human-animal relationships among the Sámi.

Archaeology at the University of Oulu is small but dynamic research unit. We specialize in northern archaeology with special emphasis on bioarchaeology, cultural heritage, and archaeology of the modern world. Archaeology at the University of Oulu is an excellent research environment for working on these topics, with necessary research infrastructure and internationally active research staff.

We are looking for researchers offering new insights into the domestication of animals, particularly reindeer. The project offers a multidisciplinary and international working environment, with specialists from differ-ent fields working together on understanding domestication from various points of view. If you have a groundbreaking idea on how to approach the archaeology of animal domestication, please contact us!

Research topics:

Identification and understanding of animal (reindeer) domestication and human-animal interaction through, for instance, human-influenced changes in animal activity, mobility and health, animal management practices, material culture and landscapes of domestication, microevolutionary patterns, or environmental approaches.

More information:

Anna-Kaisa Salmi,


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Last updated: 11.4.2018