Indigenous communities living in the Iamal-Nenets region of the Arctic Siberia incorporate reindeer antlers into various aspects of their lives, at times in remarkable ways. This is especially the case for Nenets herding families, who closely interact with domestic reindeer on a daily basis. Antlers for Nenets are not just raw materials for producing tools, but rather a part of their perceptions of time, clothing designs, gendered skills and spaces, and physical manifestations of pride. This article links current Nenets entanglements with antler to similar material practices on the Iamal Peninsula during the Iron Age. To accomplish this, we incorporate multi-generational Nenets knowledge into the analysis of modified and unmodified antler recovered during excavations of Iarte VI, an Iron Age archaeological site located on the tundra of the Iamal Peninsula. Our approach is founded upon direct engagement and collaboration with Nenets families from the Iamal region. Together, we focus on identification of reindeer age and sex through visual assessment of antler objects from Iarte VI. We also explore antler shapes and growth cycles, working qualities, and placement within and outside dwelling areas at the site. This collaborative approach sheds light on site seasonality, the ages and genders of the inhabitants of Iarte VI, and several longstanding continuities in antler practices.
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Vol. 42 • No. 1