New finds on the Sami Iron Age - 2,500 years ago

The skill of iron production is another theme of interest in this regard. Did Sami in the northern territories already know how to produce iron and steel 2,000 years ago? Was there a Sami Iron Age? Ojala (2009) states that the concept of a Sami Iron Age was suggested by Norwegian archaeologists in the 1950s, and was part of the discussion up to the 1990s (see also, for Karelia/Finland, Kosmenko and Manjuhin 1999). Zachrisson (2008: 37) states that according to written documentation Sami were considered skilled in iron smithing during the Viking age.

However, recent finds suggest that iron and steel production dates to far earlier than was thought. Archaeological finds in Norrbotten, the northernmost county in Sweden and also the northern Sami territories, currently being analysed as part of a research project by archaeologist and doctoral candidate in History ofTechnology at Lulea University ofTechnology Carina Bennerhag (2016; 2017) suggest that iron and steel production dates as early as around 500 все. These finds, and on-going analysis, challenge long-held perceptions of the hunter-gatherer societies in this region as late and passive recipients of iron.

A Sami history of skiing

There are many evidences ot the ski as an early human — Sami— innovation. Zachrisson (2008: 37) states that “most of the several hundred prehistoric skis found in Fennoscandia are of Sami type,several with typical ornamentation”, and states that it is stressed in documentation from the ninth century to the 19th century that the Sami were specialised in skiing (2008). Furthermore, finds such as the one of the 5,200-year-old ski in Kalvtrask on the Swedish side of Sabme, 1924, prove that skis have been around in Sabme for a very long time (Berg 1950).

Linguistic evidence from the Sami languages alongside written records, rock depictions and drum illustrations, further support this statement the dating of the Sami invention of skis to many millennia ago. There are around three hundred words for snow and snow conditions in Lule Sami (Ryd and Kassa 2001) and several of these relate to conditions for skiing. Hartvig Birkely argues that skiing technology is a Sami innovation, based on archaeological finds, and that the Sami word cuoigat (North Sami, tjoejkedh in South Sami, tjuojggat in Lule Sami) which means ‘to ski’, is about from 6,000 to 8,000 years old (Birkely 1994; Weinstock 2005).

In this section, I consider how this knowledge is depicted in several media, from written documentation, to rock carvings and paintings, images on a drum, as well as historical exhibits in museums.

Museums displays of ski history

The permanent exhibition on skiing at Vasterbotten County Museum proudly showcases the oldest known ski in the world, the ‘Kalvtrask ski’ found in 1924. The ski is described as being “half a millennium older than the Egyptian Pyramids” (Vasterbottens Museum 2020: online). However, so far both this exhibit and the Ski Museum showcasing old skis in Holmenkollen, Oslo, a former host of the Olympic Games and several world championships (Skiforeningen 2015) fail to mention the Sami on exhibitions’web pages. The Vasterbotten Museum (n.d.) website features a photo of the exhibition including a national romantic skiing dress, inspired by traditional Sami clothes, although without mentioning that it is such a skiing dress and not a Sami dress (cfWadensten 2011).

In contrast to this silence, Ajtte, the principal Swedish museum of Sami culture and the mountain region, has an exhibition featuring a photo collection of skis, showing their usage, as well as a collection of skis with references to work on the subject matter. On their YouTube channel there is a video explaining the Sami practice of skiing on different types of landscapes and snow quality (Ajtte 2020; 2019; 2014).

Material finds of skis, pictures in rock carvings and paintings, and on drums

Apart from the oldest find from Kalvtrask, there are several other finds of ancient skis in bogs. With current climate change, ancient skis are now found in melting glaciers as discussed by Finstad et al. (2016). The oldest known image of a skier, dated to around 1050, was found on a rune stone near Balingsta, Uppland, 80 kilometres northwest of the current Swedish capital Stockholm. Many Sami ceremonial drums feature depictions of skiers, and even though only a few drums remain, due to a church-led drive to collect and destroy drums during the 17th century, skiers are commonly found on the preserved ones, with the oldest one dating back to the 16th century. Kock depictions provide even earlier depictions of skiers (Astrom and Norberg 1984). So far, rock depictions featuring skiers have so far not been found on the Swedish side of

Lars and Anna Brita Krâik, looking for a wolf. Source

Figure 32.3 Lars and Anna Brita Krâik, looking for a wolf. Source: Nils Thomasson/Jamtli

Sabine (J. Ling, Director for the Swedish Kock Art Research Archives, personal communication 2 March 2020), but there is a skier on a rock carving in Rodoy, Helgeland, on the Norwegian side of Sabine, which dates back to 2000—1500 BCE. Equally old rock paintings featuring skiers are found the Zavalruga Field in Belomorsk, Russian Karelia, near the White Sea (Astrom and Norberg 1984).

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