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Doctoral thesis, 2014

People-plant interrelationships

Rautio, Anna-Maria


Different plants have played an important role historically in the subsistence of the native Sami people of northern Fennoscandia. Generally, their use of plants have however been regarded as less vital in their overall subsistence and in comparison to the domesticated reindeer and the hunted game and fish. Also, the impacts of early human plant use on specific plant-populations and the overall ecosystems which they inhabited have often been overlooked in research. In this thesis the traditional Sami practices and extent of plant use from the 1550s until 1900 was studied from two main perspectives; First) the cultural significance of Scots pine inner bark and A. archangelica was evaluated, in the perspective as a discrete form of resource utilization within a larger set of activities which constitute overall Sami subsistence, Second) The human impact of land use from a perspective of plant use was quantified and evaluated. Special emphasis in this thesis was placed on the role of Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) and garden Angelica (A. archangelica ssp. archangelica L.). My results show that: 1) Scots pine and A. archangelica are two of the Sami cultural key-stone species, since they were qualitatively vital for survival in these northerly regions. 2) It is possible to manage and maintain stable populations of A. archangelica by conducting harvest according to traditional Sami practices, indicating that it is likely that the Sami did not only gathered but also enhanced certain wild plants. Furthermore, the Sami harvest of different Scots pine resources on a regional scale, was shown to be sustainable throughout the study period. 3) Northern Fennoscandia can be considered a domesticated landscape, even long before the onset of agriculture. The Sami have moved over large areas, but they made well informed decisions on what resources to obtain at what times. 4) A combination of methods from different fields should be used to understand Sami plant use in a subsistence context. By combining methods it is possible to understand both the details of how and why Sami used different plants, but also to investigate historical Sami subsistence at different spatial scales.


Forest History; Interdisciplinary research; Scots pine inner bark; Angelica archangelica; ethnobotany; human land-use; hunter-gatherers; mobility; subsistence

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2014, number: 2014:85
ISBN: 978-91-576-8118-8, eISBN: 978-91-576-8119-5
Publisher: Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Rautio, Anna-Maria
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Forest Ecology and Management

UKÄ Subject classification

Forest Science
Food Science

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