The Traditional Cultures of Northern Siberia and Northern America

The Traditional Cultures of Northern Siberia and Northern America deals with the reconstruction of the size of the ancient Eskimo population on the South-eastern Chukotka coast explored by the author and his colleagues during 1971-1979. Forty-five ancient and traditional settlements are identified along this coastline and six different basic types of Eskimo dwellings are distinguished, from the Old Bering Sea period up to recent times.

The Eskimo population was counted village by village according to: 1. existing number of dwelling remains of each type analyzed separately; 2. narratives and inventories of XIX-early XX century local tradition; 3. ecological characteristics of these localities and other Eskimo hunting territories. Using these data, the author produces six chronological estimates of Southeastern Chukotka population.

According to his estimates in the Old Bering Sea period, this population numbered not more than a few hundred people. It rose to 500-800 in the Punuk period and reached its maximum of 1,000-1,500 only in the late 17th-18th Century. During the latest periods, it fluctuated only within these limits, with alternating drops and booms.

In comparison with the data from St. Lawrence Island palaeodemography, it is suggested that either existing estimates of ancient St. Lawrence Island are exaggerated or that the island--as an isolated and highly specialized ecological niche--had its own specific form of population dynamics. In the latter case, the close and permanent contacts between the island and the Siberian mainland might be seen as an adaptive trait promoting the evolution of the two Eskimo areas.

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