Ambassadørens innlegg ved Hardangerviddakonferansen Rein Vidde 2017
Visste du at reinsdyrene på Hardangervidda har sine røtter i Sør-Frankrike?
Hardangerviddakonferansen Rein Vidde 2017
Geilo, 20. mars 2017
Statement delivered by H.E. Mr. Jean-François DOBELLE
Ambassador of France to Norway.
Monsieur le maire, monsieur le président du conseil d’administration, monsieur le député.
Mesdames et Messieurs
Dear Mayor, dear Mr Chairman, dear Member of Parliament.
Ladies and gentlemen
I am very happy to join you today in this wonderful place and share a few words with you on a topic I must admit was not so familiar to me but on which I have tried to read up with a great interest.
Hardangervidda, the French connection was the subject I was kindly asked to treat today.
I felt, when I received this assignment, like the young student I was, many years ago, in front of a white paper getting ready for the entering exam to one of these prestigious schools we call in French “Grandes écoles”, and trying to gather knowledge in both history and geography.
As in the northern hemisphere territories of today (Lapland, Siberia, Canada, Alaska, …) our metropolitan territory has known, in a not so distant past, the presence of the reindeer during the prehistoric period.
This cervid has been documented in France since the beginning of the Middle Pleistocene, about six hundred thousand years ago. It was thereafter more or less present, depending on the regions and especially the climatic fluctuations, being, like all herbivores, specific to a particular type of vegetation, and therefore to the surrounding topography and climate.
If the different subspecies of reindeer live today under latitudes and in environments (tundra, boreal forest and taiga) very different from those of present-day France, many natural and archaeological sites bear witness to its former abundance on our grounds. This profusion is particularly noticeable during the coldest stages of the last Quaternary glaciations: If Homo heidelbergensis and then Neanderthal had encountered it, it is mostly the modern Cro-Magnon man (that is to say us, or at least our ancestors), who cohabited with it from about forty thousand years to about thirteen thousand years BC. To such an extent that the first prehistoric chronology written by Edouard Lartet in 1861 had called this period of the Upper Palaeolithic "the age of the Reindeer".
It is true that most Aurignacian, Gravettian, Solutrean and Magdalenian sites, named according to the various cultures that followed one another, have yielded countless relics of Reindeer, whether in the form of "kitchen waste", bone industry, or art furniture. Owing to its good taste (an appreciation that we share with prehistoric men), its large number within the herd and the low risk involved for the hunter, it was often the main game, sometimes representing more than 90% of the bones found in certain sites. Beyond food, however, it was also an important source of raw material for everyday life: skin and tendons for tents and clothing; bones and antlers for weapons and tools (assegai blades, arrow heads, harpoons, punches, needles, smoothers, perforated sticks, etc ...) or even finery. Some bones, and especially fragments of antlers, also served as supports for works of art. The Reindeer was also an artistic model, often represented in a perfectly realistic way, whether in furniture art or rock art.
Depending on the site and the state of conservation of the remains, it has been possible to gather extensive information on the way of life of prehistoric humans who hunted reindeer, and learn about hunting strategies, butchery techniques, migrations, etc.
For many reasons, the South West of France is a region where man and reindeer have often crossed path, and many sites have been preserved.
This has certainly prompted some of your Norwegian compatriots (especially Reidar Andersen and Knut Roed from 2005), working on the reindeer and the palaeogenomes, to contact the National Museum of Prehistory of the Eyzies of Tayac, in Dordogne, whose numerous and rich collections have been used to feed their research and illustrate the recent Center of the Wild Reindeer (Norsk Villreinsenter Sør).
A solid friendship was born with Jean-Jacques Cleyet-Merle, Director of the Museum, and his collaborator responsible for the paleontological collections Stéphane Madelaine and a continued scientific collaboration is going on.
I would not want here to reveal the latest works soon to be published by Knut Roed’s team, but it seems that the ongoing genetic research, in particular on mitochondrial DNA, shows that close links exist between your Norwegian reindeer and that of the Paleolithic in Southwestern France.
Works are still going on but I hope to have the opportunity to come back soon among you to confirm that not only a strong friendship united us but also family ties.
Thank you very much for your attention.