WI: Domestication of reindeer in the Ice Age.

How would it effect the Eurasia if reindeer was domesticated around 30.000 years ago. How complex could a society of reindeer herders become especially without competing herding and agricultural civilizations, how great effect would it have on their population density and development of a unified culture and a more complex economy.

Also as part of this “What if” I’m going with the theory that dogs goes back to at least 35.000 BC, so they also have early dogs.
 
Even in Northern Scandinavia semi-domestication of reindeer quite recent thing (few centuries ago Saami were not reindeer herders yet). So moving it so far back would allow massive changes in very reindeer species through thousands of years of selection.
For reindeer herders living in steppe biome good example are Tsaatan/Dukha people of Mongolia (but they have horses too).

Over time, with lack of other alternatives like horses, reindeer could be selected to be bigger , like Siberian reindeer is bigger than Scandinavian, thus could be used not only to pull sleigh, but also for ridding. (BTW I think even dog sled would be improvement for nomadic hunters in steppe-tundra , that makes me wonder-why it was not developed earlier if dogs are around us from 35k years?)
 
This is an interesting idea. After reading a few studies focused on ancient hunting/herding of wild/tamed reindeer, I have learned that the first pictographic evidence of reindeer drives were from over 6000 years ago. Some evidence of fencing for drives and pits for trapping appear around 12000 years ago. The last glaciation ended 11,700 years ago. Thus, we can infer the early humans were communally interacting with herds of reindeer. Asian evidence of herding begins from possibly 1000 BC. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0278416518302368 I wonder how much the experience of horse domestication in Siberia influenced early reindeer hunters to begin herding reindeer. The suggestion of dog traction as a possible influence on reindeer domestication is a distinct possibility in the Russian High Arctic.

Northern Scandinavian domestication appears substantially later than Siberian domestication. The evidence from Otthar's testimony to Alfred the Great @ 800 AD points to the FInns/Sami teaching the Norse to use tamed reindeer in hunting wild reindeer. The Sami may have learned the techniques from eastern contacts. The Chinese learned of domesticated reindeer much earlier.

An earlier domestication event for reindeer could have arisen during the last glaciation. How early this could have happened as always depends upon some early human conceiving of keeping a reindeer into adulthood, and training reindeer for working tasks. Dog use shows the way. However, early dogs cannot be verified within reindeer populated regions with any certainty. Dogs may have evolved in concert with humans as early as 40,000 years ago. The best evidence of domestication doesn't appear until 14-15,000 years ago. Cattle and sheep domestication appears soon afterward. What caused the development of domestication in the latest glacial period, possibly loss of large prey species, reduction in total prey animals, greater migration of prey or simply a bright idea within a group of hunter-gatherers?

Early domestication of reindeer is, therefore, a great POD from OTL. The early humans crossing Beringia could have brought tamed/domesticated reindeer with them to the America's. Groups migrating south would quickly discover the inability of reindeer to adapt, at least quickly, to warmer southern climes. Would this spark an attempt to domesticate an alternate species? Would population of the Canadian/Alaskan tundra explode? Would the expansion of Siberian tribes into northern Europe preclude Germanic/Slavic populations north of the Carpathians? My, my. Sooo many questions.
 
I suspect that the reindeer herder would come to dominate the mammoth steppes primarily, while they would herd their reindeer, they would also stay big game hunters beside being hunters, but the greater mobility and transportation capacity would allow bigger populations and a more complex tool kit. the higher mobility and bigger population enable them to develop a trade network, which increase their sophistication. All in all thos in short term enable them to upkeep a higher population density one more similar to the hunter gatherers in the more fertile regions further south. But they don’t move south as the reindeer do badly in the hotter climate. But over time we see the development of semi-sedentary settlements. These are first the rare annual market, but later we see settlement focusing on flint and salt mines, salt enable them to make better use of fishing resulting in a few permanent fishing hamlets whose goods enter the herder trading network, but also increases in tool complexity as we first see the first copper mines and later tin mines. The herders enter a long Bronze Age, increased complexity from that point are improvement in tool kit, move to a riding culture, but fundamental they’re limited by a smallish population and inability to move south, we see some movement into arctic deserts of East Asia and the dry lands north of the North American glaciers.

Many of the megafauna likely survives as the get used to be hunted more active. So the mammoth and wholly rhino survives on the Great Eurasian steppes as the Ice Age end. Of course for the herder it’s more dramatic, their trade networks doesn’t collapse, but they see a major disruption. We may see a move away from bronze and to iron, as it’s easy to get. As such humanity enter the post-Ice Age world as a iron using culture.
 
Higher populations will put greater pressures on megafauna. The development of Siberian reindeer domestication OTL utilized dog harness for reindeer harness development. Also, note the range of reindeer extended into the Ural range and to the mid-Mongolia steppe. Reindeer can handle forests and dry steppes. The ability to range further south until horse societies replaced them would enable the reindeer based tribes a degree of mobility lacking by non-reindeer herding groups. Thus, the early charioteers of the steppes would be reindeer powered.I can definitely see stone weapon wielding raiders dominating from the Arctic Ocean to the mid-steppe regions. Trade networks would develop to the more southerly population centers. I will pass on the inevitability of metal craft so early. The possibility of reindeer herding tribes moving into North America is rather exciting. I wonder how far east such a migration could reach into present-day Canada. A path eventually appeared southward past the Cordillerian Glaciers. Did the Laurentide Ice Sheet provide any similar pathway past Hudson's bay and Lake Agassiz into Ontario and Quebec? Was passage as far as Greenland possible?

Another concern of mine is whether a herding society develop additional domesticates, such as camelids, cattle, horses,asses sheep, goats, pigs, or even musk ox, elk/moose/wapita/red deer or elephant/mastodon/mammoth? Moving domestication of any species forward will have the effect of moving forward the domestication of other species.
 
IIRC the theory goes that horses were reintroduced to the Americas after the Spanish Conquista. Early settlers supposedly hunted early horses to extinction. ITTL you might see more domesticated animals in the Americas including local ones, perhaps leading to a less severe disease outbreak after European contact, and perhaps an exchange of diseases.
 
A lot of the problem with pushing reindeer south is that deer and some other animals carry diseases/parasites lethal to them (ticks, internal parasites, etc). Culturally they'd pick up on this quickly and likely move to contain or perhaps even eliminate deer populations. As the deer are deliberately overhunted, more resources are freed up for reindeer to use. I don't know if reindeer herders could totally eliminate deer from their lands (not enough hunters), or if they'd even want to (because it's now rare, has different qualities of meat/horn/bone, etc), but they could certainly do a number. This goes well with forestry practices too since they could use burning to make the habitat less favourable for deer as well as just straight up using it for maximum efficiency in deer hunting.

I suspect that the reindeer herder would come to dominate the mammoth steppes primarily, while they would herd their reindeer, they would also stay big game hunters beside being hunters, but the greater mobility and transportation capacity would allow bigger populations and a more complex tool kit. the higher mobility and bigger population enable them to develop a trade network, which increase their sophistication. All in all thos in short term enable them to upkeep a higher population density one more similar to the hunter gatherers in the more fertile regions further south. But they don’t move south as the reindeer do badly in the hotter climate. But over time we see the development of semi-sedentary settlements. These are first the rare annual market, but later we see settlement focusing on flint and salt mines, salt enable them to make better use of fishing resulting in a few permanent fishing hamlets whose goods enter the herder trading network, but also increases in tool complexity as we first see the first copper mines and later tin mines. The herders enter a long Bronze Age, increased complexity from that point are improvement in tool kit, move to a riding culture, but fundamental they’re limited by a smallish population and inability to move south, we see some movement into arctic deserts of East Asia and the dry lands north of the North American glaciers.
They could spread south quite far since reindeer herding in the mountain valleys of the Alps, Caucasus, Himalayas, Rockies, etc. would be pretty viable. Especially a sort of seasonal rotation where they reside in the foothills in the winter and return to the highlands in the summer. I'd expect they'd spread faster south in North America since there's a solid chain of mountains from central Alaska to California. How far south they spread depends on the amount of cooler land and potential opposition they'd face, and if it's early enough they might be too successful to stop until they run out of the former. The Old World's a different story, I don't think you'd see many reindeer herders south of the highlands in Anatolia and Iran.
 
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