Mammoth bone collecting as a traditional occupation of the indigenous population of the East Siberian Arctic (17th early 20th c.) 

Bravina R.I.




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The paper is concerned with the history of collecting and trade of fossil mammoth bones as a traditional occupation of the indigenous population of the East Siberian Arctic in the 17th early 20th c. For a long time the indigenous peoples of the North practiced individual collecting, incidental in the course of hunting, of fossil bones for their household needs. Meanwhile, archaic ideas about the mammoth as a sacred chthonic animal served as a regulator of ecological balance of the traditional nature management, introducing constraints on the scope of the search and size of the spoils. Starting from the 17th c., the search for and quarry of fossil bone are most closely connected with the history of the colonization and exploration of the Arctic regions of Eastern Siberia by Russian pioneers. In the context of the development of commodity-money relations on the sea islands, artels were formed from among the northern Yakuts and Russian Arctic old-settlers, supplying tusk to the merchants who traded in furs and mammoth tusks. The extraction of fossil mammoth bones reached its peak in the middle of the 19th c., when the Russian, or Moscow ivory was current on the world market as the fifth grade, with the total assortment of six grades. At the turn of the 19th20th cc. the mammoth ivory industry in Yakutia was experiencing a crisis; the demand for the products of mammoth ivory within the country was decreasing, merchants could not find markets, and ivory harvesting in Africa increased. However, despite these factors, this occupation preserved in places until the 1930s. In the modern conditions of the development of the Arctic, inclusion of collection and extraction of mammoth tusks in the list of traditional economic activities will help to solve economic and legal problems in this region in the interests of the indigenous population.

Keywords: East Siberian Arctic, indigenous peoples, traditional occupations, mammoth tusks, history, types, fishing methods, marketing.


Creative Commons License

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

Accepted: 05.12.2022

Article is published: 15.03.2023


Bravina R.I., Institute for Humanitarian Research and North Indigenous People Problems of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IHRNIPP SB RAS), Petrovskogo st., 1, Yakutsk, 677027, Russian Federation, E-mail:,