Cauldrons in the cultural traditions of the Ob Ugrians and Samoyeds: the archaeological artifact and living tradition 

Perevalova E.V. (St. Petersburg, Russian Federation), Danilova E.N. (Yekaterinburg, Russian Federation)


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The first part of the article published in this journal considers the archaeological context along with the functional, morphological and social aspects associated with cauldrons in the cultural traditions of the Ob Ugrians and Samoyeds of North-Western Siberia. In this work, the authors analyse field ethnographic materials collected from the Khanty (Synya, Voykar, Sob, Kunovat, Polui, Ob, Salym, Yugan, Pim, Tromyogan, Agan, Vakh, Polar Urals), Mansi (Northern Sosva, Lyapin and Lozva Rivers) and Nenets (Yamal Peninsula, Pur and Agan Rivers) in 19802018. The study of cauldrons in a living culture along with analysing them as an archaeological artefact has greatly expanded the chronological range of the research from the 1st4th centuries AD to the present time. The archaeological and ethnographic research is based on a structural and semiotic approach. A cauldron, as an element of material and spiritual culture, associated with the methods for obtaining and preserving energy, is directly related to the experience of using natural resources and to the development of life sustenance models for the Northern communities. Numerous archaeological discoveries of intact cauldrons, as well as their fragments and items made from their fragments in North-Western Siberia, indicate the archaism and the continued use of cauldrons as vessels for storage and cooking; fashionable, prestigious, high-status items; a receptacle for the soul; a divine attribute and a talisman, etc. It is not surprising that the cauldron, whose direct purpose consists in storage and preparation of food, is incredibly versatile in Ob-Ugric and Samoyedic cultures. The cauldron appears in the surviving toponyms and legends of the Nenets, Khanty and Mansi. It acts as a measure of volume and time. Cauldrons possess features and properties of a living organism; they contain the energy of fire and stone-iron. The ability of cauldrons to change their condition and position (full/empty, boiling/not boiling, upside-down/right-side-up) is manifested in their diverse duality making them mediators in the following juxtapositions: peace enmity, familiar alien, kinship property, birth death, wealth poverty, happiness trouble. cauldron is a symbol of family unity, the source of the power for birth-recovery, as well as an attribute of shamanic rites and a border between the worlds. The high mythical and ritual status of the cauldron is emphasised by its celestial origin.

Key words: North-Western Siberia, the Ob Ugrians, the Samoyeds, cauldron, energy, symbol, the spiritual and ritual practices.


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

Submitted: 09.05.2019

Accepted: 30.09.2019

Article is published: 30.12.2019


Perevalova E.V.

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (the Kunstcamera) of the RAS, Universitetskaya Naberezhnaya, 3, St. Petersburg, 199034, Russian Federation



Danilova E.N.

Institute of History and Archaeology of the Ural Branch of the RAS, S. Kovalevskoy st., 16, Yekaterinburg, 620099, Russian Federation