Dietary strategies of Northern Selkups in the 18th19th centuries 

Poshekhonova O.E., Razhev D.I. (Tyumen, Russian Federation), Slepchenko S.M.(Tyumen, Surgut, Russian Federation),

Marchenko Z.V. (Novosibirsk, Russian Federation), Adaev V.N. (Tyumen, Russian Federation)


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The article considers the dietary habits of a small Selkup group that lived in the north of Western Siberia along the upper reaches of the Taz River in the18th19th centuries. To this end, we carried out paleopathological and archaeoparasitological studies of the anthropological material from a burial ground located next to the once-existing settlement of Karakonskaya, as well as performed an isotopic analysis of organic samples. Another objective was to study archival documents containing information on the inhabitants of the Upper Taz area. The isotope analysis included 17 anthropological and zooarchaeological samples, represented by the bones, hair and nails of 10 people, bones of a herbivore (reindeer), an omnivore (squirrel) (2) and fish (3). Soil samples taken from the surface of the sacra of 22 people served as the material for the archaeoparasitological study. Paleopathological studies included the bone remains of 23 people. We examined the originals of 19th-century documents stored at the State Archives of the Krasnoyarsk Territory. In order to differentiate the sources of land- and river-based diet, we analysed the stable-isotope ratio of carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) in anthropological and zooarchaeological samples. The comparison of collagen and keratin isotopic values in one individual allowed seasonal variations in the diet to be established. For the purpose of identifying gender differences in the diet, an isotopic comparison between men and women was performed. In order to characterise the ways of food consumption and preparation, soil samples taken from burials were studied to detect eggs of intestinal parasites, as well as to establish their species. Other aspects of the groups diet were studied by analysing the manifestations of porotic hyperostosis on the skull and dental diseases. When working on the archival materials, we employed cross-validation of information and analysed some documents covering large time intervals. It was established that the everyday diet the local Selkup group included bottom-dwelling and predatory fish, whereas the consumption of land mammals was minimal. Moreover, when preparing fish dishes for all members of the group, including children, fish was not heated or it was not heated enough. Seasonal fluctuations in the diet associated with hunting certain animals were recorded. The consumption of sugar and flour-based food by the Northern Selkups until the beginning of the 20th century was insignificant. Regular periods of hunger occurred given that the population had no tradition to make long-term food reserves. The consumption of certain food (dishes) resulted in the damage to the teeth and soft tissues of the mouth. For the men of this group, hunted food was somewhat more accessible than for women. The dietary system of the Northern Selkups had more in common with their closest neighbours the Khanty of the Vakh River rather than with the ethnically close Southern Selkups.

Key words: Western Siberia, Upper Taz Selkup, diet, isotope analysis, archeoparasitology, paleopathology, archival data.


Funding. Isotope analysis was supported by The Gerda Henkel Foundation, Germany ( XII.186.4).



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted: 16.09.2019

Accepted: 30.09.2019

Article is published: 30.12.2019


Poshekhonova O.E.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation



Razhev  D.I.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation



 Slepchenko S.M.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation

Surgut State University, Lenina st., 1, Surgut, 628412, Russian Federation



Marchenko Z.V. 

Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of Siberian Branch RAS, prosp. Acad. Lavrentieva, 17, Novosibirsk, 630090, Russian Federation



Adaev V.N.

Tyumen Scientific Centre of Siberian Branch RAS, Malygin st., 86, Tyumen, 625026, Russian Federation