mongolia, exhibition, Tsatang, reindeer, nomads, baby, saddle, exhibition, moesgaard museum, ethnography

Baby nomads: Mongolian child saddle

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Asia

How do you transport your baby, when you are always on the move, and your mode of transport of a horse or a reindeer?

Next week, the new big special exhibition ‘On the steppes of Genghis Khan – Mongolia’s nomads’ opens at Moesgaard Museum. The exhibition takes us from the days of Genghis Kahn’s great conquering horde in the 12th and 13th centuries up to today’s Mongolian nomads, which counts around a third of the country’s population. Through exquisite archaeological collections from Mongolia and ethnographic collections from the Danish National Museum and Moesgaard Museum, and through evocative scenography and enticing visual effects, the museum visitors will be taken on a journey through time and across the vast Mongolian steppes.

In today’s blog post, we have decided to focus on a collection from the nomadic Tsatang people living in the Mongolian part of the Altai Mountains, a mountain range in the border area where Russia, China, Mongolia, and Kazakhstan come together. The Tsatang people are one of the last groups of reindeer herders left in the world. The reindeer play a vital part in their culture, and in their daily life. They provide the milk, yoghurt, cheese, and occasionally meat; they carry the Tsatang people’s possessions as they travel from place to place, their skins are used for clothes, and their antlers for tools.

But they can also be ridden. The saddle that is the focus of today’s blog post was collected in 1996 by anthropologists Morten Axel Pedersen and Lars Højer. They collected a great number of everyday objects, among which were several saddles, but I think this baby saddle is the most interesting and surprising. In their description of the saddle in our database, they write:

“All child saddles are shaped thus. All families have at least one, which they connect directly with the raising of their children. When moving camp, smaller children (ages 1-4) are ‘secured’ to the saddle using clothes and rope so that they do not fall off. It is also possible to fasten a cradle to the saddle, when transporting babies”.

So there you have it; one way to transport your baby, if you are always on the move, is to strap them onto the back of your reindeer. And I should think that the gently rolling gait of a reindeer should soothe the little baby nomad right to sleep, as they move from one settlement to the next.

For a vastly more spectacular insight into the life of Mongolian nomads through time, come and see the new special exhibition when it opens to the public on Tuesday the 19th of June!

//Sophie Seebach

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