in the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography
(from the series "Siberia Viewed by Ethnographers. Beginning of XX century")


Expedition of W.I. Jochelson

W.I. Jochelson
(14(26).01.1855, Vilnius - 02.11.1937, New York)
     The history of expeditions is very exuberant from the viewpoint of ethnographical study of Siberia. One of them - the exhibition of Sibiryakov (1894-1896) has been reputed as unexampled in terms of the scope and academic research. It covered Yakutia, Olekmin, Verkhoyansk and Kolyma regions. The name of W.I. Jochelson has been associated with the research in the Kolyma region. The expedition teamed 26 persons, including 15 political exiles, as well as some local Yakutian administrators and local guides. The expedition was aimed to study household and crofting of the indigenous peoples of Yakutia, as well as interrelations of the Russians and the local population. The initiator of the expedition - prominent Yakutian gold miner and maecenas A.M. Sibiryakov, granted the expedition a tremendous for that time amount of 12 000 rubles. Thanks to this benefaction the extended and expansed roots for the research were worked out/ This research supposed stationary work within 2-3 years. In addition Sibiryakov's grant provided the academic and research materials.
    The political exile W.I. Jochelson was invited to participate in the expedition. His task was to study household, language, culture of the peoples who inhabited the area along one of the largest rivers of Yakutia - the Kolyma river. The scope of his research involved the Yukagir, Even, Chukchee, Koryak and Russian sourdoughs. It was V.I. Iohelson who enriched ethnographical science with priceless knowledge about little-known tribe - the Yukagir. he researcher composed grammer of Yukagir language, wrote dictionaries, made anthropometric measurements, wrote numerous papers and collected materials on this ethnos. Besides, he made over 400 photos, most of which has been kept in the Department of Siberian Ethnography of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera).
    It took less than 10 years upon Jochelson's return from Siberia to St.Petersburg (1898), when he and V.G. Bogoraz were enrolled on the staff of the prominent Jesup's North Pacific expedition organized in association with the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Prior to expedition large-scale historical and ethnographical tasks were assigned - to study ancient links between the indigenous peoples of Asia and North America. Jochelson again travels to North-East Siberia to continue studies of the Yukagir and the Koryak. The expedition landed along the north cost of the Sea of Okhotsk in the settlement of Gizhiga in summer, 1900. Within a year Jochelson surveyed settlements of the coastal Koryak of the Penzhinsky Bay, as well as the nomadic tundra Koryak-reindeer-breeders, who's territory in the North neighbored to pasture lands of the Chukchee- reindeer-breeders.
    In late summer of 1901 the expedition headed for the Kolyma region and by the beginning of winter they arrived in Verkhnekolymsk. Within the next 1902 they held field surveys among local Yukagir.
    Within a few years upon return to Russia, when Jochelson had gained reputation of the leading researcher-ethnographer, he was invited to take part in Kamchatka expedition. Jochelson was offered to work as the chief of ethnological team. This expedition, along with the previous one, was designed to identify ancient links between the indigenous peoples of the both costs of the Bering Sea. In order to do this it was planned to study the indigenous peoples of Aleut islands and Kamchatka Peninsular.
    This expedition lasted for over 3 years (spring 1908 - autumn 1911). The first year and a half W.I. Jochelson spent visiting the largest islands of Aleut Ridge and studying Aleutian language and culture.

Expedition camp at excavations at the Kurilskoye Lake W.I. Jochelson  and workers at one of the excavations n the Kolyma trawler Inside of the Yakut yurt. Packing of the expedition collections Rain-deer train in tundra
Expedition camp Expedition camp  

Expedition. 1911.
Click the picture to zoom it.

    The archeological excavations on Kamchatka and Aleut islands were the important component of the work. Archeological excavations done in 1910 on the east coast of Kamchatka in the area of Avachinskaya Gulf resulted in worthy material on the culture of the Itelmen ancestors. Tools made of bone, silicon and obsidian were found. In winter 1910-1911 the expedition traveled to the coast of Kamchatka Peninsular to the area inhabited by the Itelmen. Here W.I. Jochelson studied Itelmen language, folklore, household and everyday life of the settlements Hayruzov, Tigil and nearby campings of the Koryak and Lamut.
    The Kamchatka expedition of 1908-1911 was Jochelson's last field work. He spent in expeditions over 10 years, and left behind a tremendous field material on the culture of the Yakut, Siberian Russians, Yukagir, Lamut, Itelmen, Aleut as well as photo-illustrative collections which are in use down the present day.

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