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Congratulations to Dr. Tatiana Nomokonova on receiving a SSHRC Insight Development Grant!

July 25, 2012

Congratulations to Dr. Tatiana Nomokonova on receiving a SSHRC Insight Development Grant!

Details: 2012 SSHRC Insight Development Grant
Title: Seal-hunter interactions on Lake Baikal, Siberia
PI: Dr. Tatiana Nomokonova, UBC
Co-PI: Dr. Robert Losey, UA
Collaborators: Dr. Artur Kharinskii from IrSTU and Mikhail Pastukhov from Institute of Geochecmistry SO RAN
Duration: 1 year
Amount: $44,474

Proposed project summary: Seals are closely linked to the economic and social well-being of many indigenous peoples throughout the world, particularly in the Circumpolar North. Siberia's Lake Baikal, home to a unique freshwater seal species, has one of the deepest archaeological records of such interaction, with the earliest evidence for sealing here dating to 9000 years ago. Sealing is still practiced in a traditional manner by several indigenous groups living near Lake Baikal, including the Buriat and Evenk. This project will integrate these modern experiences with seals and the region's deep archaeological record to produce a detailed cultural and ecological perspective on the long-term evolution of human interaction with these compelling creatures.

To do this, we first will interview and observe sealers on Lake Baikal to assess the strategies and processes involved in procuring these animals. We also will focus our efforts on understanding how seals figure in local conceptions of the landscape and the expression of identities. Second, through radiocarbon dating we will clarify the chronologies of several regional archaeological sites that contain clear evidence for the use of seals as food and in ritual activities. Our interpretive approach for these two datasets will focus on the realities of seal hunting in this harsh environment, but also will pay attention to the often ignored cultural aspects of hunting, eating, and interacting with Baikal seals and the landscape they inhabit.

To accomplish our project goals, we have assembled a team of scholars with previous experience interviewing local hunters, and with detailed knowledge of Baikal seal biology and local archaeology. The information generated by our international team will contribute to better understanding the complex relationships between indigenous groups and the landscapes and animals they utilize. Also, as one of the only studies to incorporate observations and interviews with modern sealers with archaeological evidence of sealing, this project will provide entirely new perspectives on the evolution of one of the North's most ancient and enduring ways of life---sealing. Finally, we will use a variety of digital technologies and publication venues to disseminate our research results to a wide audience, including among the local communities within which our studies will be based.

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