About 12,000 years ago, in the late ice age, reindeer were living in Latvia too. The Christmassy animals were living in Latvia for about 2,000 years, according to finds uncovered in Olaine, Nītaure and by the Lubānas lake and elsewhere - as testified by arrow and harpoon heads from the antlers of these fine animals. These have been uncovered in Salaspils, where a deer hunter settlement was found 11,000 years ago - reported Latvian Radio Friday.
Back then, the Baltic Sea was a lake of ice, on the shores of which tundral vegetation grew, including lichens that are the staple of the reindeer diet.
Ivars Zupiņš, paleontologist at the Latvian Natural History Museum, told Latvian Radio that the areal where reindeer roam is dependent on the climate. "There's data that reindeer had gone to Spain too when there weren't good circumstances for eating and therefore living here. Reindeer are generally migratory, which we see nowadays. It basically applies to all the fauna of that time," said Zupiņš.
Mostly antlers and skulls testify of the mighty deer having lived in Latvia. It's thought that the finds are of the same species that now live in northern Scandinavia.
The largest antler finds were at Lubānas lake and Olaine. "In a way, [the finds] happen randomly. Often it's related to some groundwork. [..] It's possible that they [the hunters] had gone through certain paths, by river valleys, by the Lubānas lake lowland," the paleontologist told Latvian Radio.
The more ancient finds have been in the South of Europe, but as it got warmer the areal moved northwards.
Thanks to the reindeer one can research human history as well, as their antlers and bones were used to make harpoons and arrowheads. "Reindeer were followed by people hunting them. That's why finds are rarer as it was a process in perpetual motion as reindeer and hunter moved around. That's why the older settlements weren't permanent and there's little chance to find evidence related to human activities," Zupiņš said.