Across many past and current cultures, caribou, reindeer or rangifer tarandus are mythical creatures

Still found in the northern portions of North America, Europe and Asia. Caribou, or reindeer, are holarctic deer. Reindeer, caribou or ranifer tarandus remain one of the most culturally significant creatures dating back to mythical stories from the pleistocene. Currently found in Alaska, Canada and along the Canada-U.S. border, including northern Idaho, northeastern Washington and southeastern British Columbia. During historic times, and glaciations; caribou had a much greater southerly distribution ranging from Alaska south to Tennessee and east to Virginia. At the end of the Pleistocene, reindeer followed the shrinking glaciers, and boreal forests, northwards towards the arctic. More recently, caribou could also be found in the northern U.S. from Minnesota to Maine, but they disappeared from these areas during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Caribou are well-adapted to the extreme cold of Arctic environments, and their presence in more southernly deposits from the late Pleistocene serves as a good indicator of colder climates during this time.

Length: females: 1.4-1.9 m (4.6-6.2 ft), males: 1.6-2.1 m (5.2-6.9 ft.); and
Weight: females: 63-94 kg (139-207 lb), males: 81-153 kg (179-337) lb.

Charles Hamilton Smith is credited with the name Rangifer for the reindeer genus in the 1800s. The tarandos name dates back to Aristotle and Theophrastus in Greece.

Physical Description
Reindeer have a thick, wool like undercoat and a stiff overcoat consisting of long, hollow guard hairs to protect them from cold. They have broad, flat, deeply cleft hooves that allow them to travel across boggy ground, snow, ice and water.
In March or April, antlers begin to grow on male and in May or June, female. The process is called antlerogenesis.
Antlers grow very quickly every year on the bulls. And, as they grow, spongy in texture, are covered in thick velvet, filled with blood vessels.
Caribou is the only species of deer in which both the males and females have antlers.

Caribou occupy boreal and sub-boreal forests as well as arctic tundra, and they utilize a range of habitats within these areas. They prefer old-growth and mature forests, particularly those adjacent to wetland and riparian areas. They are also found at high elevation grasslands, alpine and sub-alpine open forests. And, scrub, and barren habitats characterized by large stretches of bare ground. In winter, they favor habitats with shallow snow cover, which allows them to drink and forage through the snow more easily.

Reindeer, or Caribou are herbivores who feed on grasses, sedges, mushrooms and shrubs. During the winter months, when plants are not common, these animals forage primarily on lichens, and moss.

While migrating reindeer travel about 19–55 km (12–34 mi) a day. It can run at speeds of 60–80 km/h (37–50 mph). After one day, young calves can outrun an Olympic sprinter.
Most reindeer/caribou are fairly nomadic animals who travel in large herds, migrate between summer and winter habitats, and frequantly over long distances. Males use there antlers in the fall to joust, and the right to win a mate. In the spring pregnet females establish calving grounds in the open tundra and grassland habitat.
Did you know: reindeer can swim about 6.5 km/h (4.0 mph), and if duressed, even more almost 10 km/h, or (6.2 mph).

Where to find reindeer: past and present
Caribou have been found around terminal pleistocene ice sheets. In north America, some of the areas were: central and eastern Wisconsin (Zelienka Caribou, Oostburg Caribou, and Wauwatosa Caribou), northeast Illinois (Valentine Bog), northern and central Indiana (Kolarik and Christensen Bog), northern Ohio (Sheridan Pit and Huffman Bog) and eastern Michigan (Fowlerville Caribou, Holcombe Beach, and Minden City Caribou).
In Europe and Norway more than 25,000 mountain reindeer are still around Scandanavia.
Russia manages 19 herds of Siberian tundra reindeer that total about 940,000.
The Taimyr herd of Siberian tundra reindeer is the biggest. With an estimated 400,000 and 1,000,000.
In some areas of the world, including Canada. Reindeer have been disappearing.

Relationship with humans
Both arctic and European prehistoric people have deemed the reindeer culturally significant. Northerners depended on caribou for food, clothing, and shelter. And, many prehistoric Europeans cave drew reindeer. Both developed herding or semi-domestication for things such as meat, hides, antlers, milk, and transportation, around or before the bronze age.
In both Alaska and Finland, reindeer sausage is sold in supermarkets and grocery stores. Some countries even sells Caribou as meatballs, and as a popular beer brand in Canada.
As a natural aphrodisiac, nutritional or medicinal supplement, Asians had sought reindeer antlers for centuries.

Indigenous North Americans
Considered important amongst indigenous populations, and especially modernly in the north. There is an aboriginal saying: “The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong”.

Indigenous Eurasians
Many northern European nations have used the reindeer in there coat of arms.

Hunting history
In 53bc, in Commentarii de Bello Gallico (chapter 6.26). Julias Caeser described the reindeer: “There is an ox shaped like a stag. In the middle of its forehead a single horn grows between its ears, taller and straighter than the animal horns with which we are familiar. At the top this horn spreads out like the palm of a hand or the branches of a tree. The females are of the same form as the males, and their horns are the same shape and size.”

Santa Claus and Christmas
In 1823, “A visit from St. Nicholas” was wrote. Around the world, at Christmas and new years, public interest spikes in reindeer peaks.

Believe it or not, golden eagles are one of the most prolific reindeer hunters on calving grounds. Other critters, such as wolverines especially take newborn calves or birthing cows, and although less commonly, even adults. Brown bears and polar bears hunt on reindeer but healthy adult reindeer can usually far outpace a bear. Gray wolf is the most effective natural predator. And, commonly, these (and wolves) groups will work together.

In neolithic Greeces Sesklo culture, the Gorgon masks protruding tongue with boar tusks, puffy cheeks, eyeballs fixed & snakes twisting around her head may have originated

Greece and Sesklo had wonderful clay, great stone and good fuel supply. Because of this, they excelled at pottery, ceramics and thus the neolithic age.
The prehistoric settlement of Sesklo is situated near the modern village of the same name, 15 kilometres to the southwest of Volos. In Thessaly. Excevations here have dated the habitation to pre-pottery neolithic (*about 9000 years ago) to late neolithic age, 4500 BC (or, about 6500 years ago).
The people of Sesklo built their villages on hillsides near fertile valleys, where they were able to grow an abundance of wheat and barley. They kept herds of mainly sheep and goats, although they also had cattle, swine, and dogs.The long habitation of the area is due to the fertile arable soil, the abundance of water and the direct access. It provided, to both the Pelion mountains, and sea of the Gulf of Pagassai. Initially, settlements were discovered in the 19th century, and the first excavations were made by the Greek archaeologist, Christos Tsountas.

Pre-Sesklo aceramic, or, pre-pottery 6800–6500 BC;
The oldest fragments researched at Sesklo place. Show a development of the culture as far back as 7510 BC to 6190 BC. It is known as the proto-Sesklo, pre-Sesklo, or Sesklo aceramic period.
They show an advanced agriculture and a very early use of pottery. For the age, it rivals those documented in the near east. It is believed this early known neolithic culture of Europe, helped spread, inhabit, and establish other early cultures. Such as the ones in other parts of Thessaly and Macedonia.
Initially, at Sesklo, a small settlement of the pre-pottery neolithic was limited to the “citadel”. It consisted of subterranean huts with post walls. During the early neolithic it stretched to the west of the hill and was called Sesklo B and C. It consisted of four sided, one roomed buildings with stone foundations, and mudbrick walls. As life continued into the neolithic. In the free spaces, all kinds of economic and social activities were organized with neighboring households. They enjoyed cooking, pottery making, carving, trading and flintknapping. And things expanded.

6500-5800 BC Early neolithic
In the early period, Sesklos houses were still small. With one or two rooms. Built of wood or mudbrick. Construction techniques later, became more homogeneous and all homes were built of stone foundations and adobe. The first houses with two levels begain. And, were found clearly indicating an intentionally that urbanism existed. The lower levels of proto-Sesklo lacked pottery. But the Sesklo people soon developed very fine-glazed earthenware. They begin decorating it with geometric symbols of red and brown colors. These new types of pottery were incorporated in the early neolithic Sesklo period, and expanded into the middle too.

5800-5300 BC Middle neolithic
During the Middle Neolithic the settlement covered Kastraki hill (“citadel” or Sesklo A), and further (Sesklo B and C). Accommodating 200-300 inhabitants. This middle neolithic is also called Sesklo culture, since it was here that for the first time different cultural achievements were characterized in Thesssaly.

It was then when a denser habitation was observed.
Rectangular buildings with stone foundations, walls of mud-bricks and gable or hipped roofs predominated from this period. It was a main practice of Greek architecture that was neolithic. They usually had one room, on the ground floor, while there was indications of existence of a second storey. Their interior included hearths and constructions for storing goods, and sleeping. The arrangement of the houses at the “citadel” differed from that of the so-called “city”. The “citadel” followed a free-standing arrangement. Homes were at a short distance from each other. While in the “city” they were built one next to the other. Forming clusters at some distance one from one another. In both cases though, the effort to ensure as great building space as possible was manifest. In the “citadel” curvilinear retaining walls were built. It created terraces for buildings on the west slope.
Characteristic painted pottery, red on light brown, continued into the Middle Neolithic. They were unearthed at the “citadel” of Sesklo but it was not found in the “city” of Sesklo. This could be attributed to some economic and social inequality not typical of the society of the Middle Neolithic, but was thought to became more evident towards the end of the Neolithic. When natural disasters, trade routes and metallurgy changed things.

Late neolithic I 5300–4800 BC; &, late neolithic II 4800–4500 BC
At 5000 BC, the neolithic settlement of Sesklo covered an area of approximately 20 hectares (50 acres). It was its peak period, and comprised about 500 to 800 houses with a population estimated to be as large as 5,000 people.
Some professors believe an “Sesklo invasion theory”. Stating that Sesklo culture lasted until around 5000 BC. When it was violently conquered by people of the Dimini culture. The Dimini culture had many similarities, but in this theory is considered different from that found earlier at Sesklo. An alternative theory states, they lived and worked together a number of centuries, before turning on each other.

One thing is for sure. Around 4400 BC this thriving settlement was destroyed by an earthquake, followed by fire. It was the case with other Thessalian settlements. Because of the fire. For approximately 500 years, it left behind abandoned ruins. Among them was a pottery workshop. Sealed off for centuries, was some of the finest specimens of pottery, figurines; stone industry pieces; seals; and, jewellery from the period.
After this, only the “citadel” of Sesklo was re-inhabited. At its highest spot, a large megaroid house was built, with open porch and two closed rooms around 152 square meters (around 500 square feet). This building became the most important of the settlement and was surrounded by stone enclosures. Similarly to those of neighbouring Dimini. Around it, other homes and shops were built.

Growth of pottery was growth of neolithic cultures
Evolution and growth of culture was again what neolithic Greece, and Sesklos became successful at. During the early and mid neolithic, using pottery and art, they were able to store, trade and barter tools and supplies better, and with style. While the neolithic period was going on. Toward the end, ceramic decorations evolved to flame motifs. Pottery of this “classic” Sesklo style also was used in Western Macedonia, as found at Serbia and some others. Found in the near eastern regions. There were many similarities between Asia minor pottery and early Greek neolithic pottery. It has been acknowledged Sesklo settlers could have migrated from Asia Minor (and vice versa). However, such similarities seem to exist among all early pottery found in near eastern regions. And, Asia minor vessels had a few differences. The repertoire of shapes is not very different, but they seem to be deeper than Thessalian counterparts.
Differentiating from Anatolian settlements. Shallow, slightly open bowls are characteristic of the Sesklo culture. The earliest appearance of figurines is completely different as well. One significant characteristic of this culture is the abundance of women statuettes, often pregnant. It was probably connected to the widely hypothesized theory Gorgons, and prehistoric fertility cults. Throughout many millennia, these sculptures of women were present in all the Balkan cultures and most of the Danube civilizations.

It is no doubt that Sesklo culture is crucial in the expansion of the Neolithic into Europe. Dating and research points to the influence of Sesklo culture on both the Karanovo (Bulgaria) and Körös (central Europe) cultures, as well as, Danube Serbia. It is debatable though, that a largely independent indigenous development of Greek neolithic settlements was in place. At some points they probably had to work for and against each other. Trading, bartering, co-operating, working with weather and whatever systems were in place. One things for sure, if protruding tongues, tusks, puffy cheeks, snake hair and glazing eyeballs that turned others to stone was on your side. You sure wouldn’t have messed with it.

Bibliography: The Language of the Goddess, February 1, 2001 by Marija Gimbutas (Author), Joseph Campbell (Author) ISBN-10: ‎ 0500282498, ISBN-13: ‎ 978-0500282496; Wikipedia; &, Foundation of the Hellenic world in Greece.