Ethnographic collections of naturalist Peter Simon Pallas
Ethnographic collections of naturalist Peter Simon Pallas
In the second half of the 18th century, the Academy of Sciences arranged gathering of ethnographic materials through research expeditions “for comprehensive description of the nature and population of the Russian Empire.” The scientists studied the history, geography, nature, economy, and culture of the peoples of the Volga region, the Urals, European North, Siberia, Caspian Sea region, and Caucasus. These expeditions, often called Physical, became the glory of Russian science. Even today, they impress you with the immensity of comprehensive studies and the range of geography. One of the leaders of the Physical Expeditions was Peter Simon Pallas (1741-1811), a polymath scientist, natural philosopher; Academician, Professor of Natural History of the Academy of Sciences, and head of the Kunstkamera’s Cabinet of Natural History from 1767. In 1768-1774, Pallas explored the steppe around Astrakhan, the Urals, the Altai Mountains, and the Baikal region. The scientist presented the materials of his explorations in fundamental publications, which are recognized as primary scientific sources on the history of many peoples of Eurasia. Gathering collections for the Kunstkamera’s scientific assets was an important part of the expeditions’ work. Pallas brought vast naturalist collections to the Museum. The Kunstkamera’s ethnographic collection received the collections gathered by collected by Pallas in Volga Region. The museum also keeps his collection of Mongol and Kalmyk Buddha idols and objects related to the Mongols’ beliefs. Today, the Pallas collection in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography is one of Russia’s oldest ethnographic collections, of tremendous value not only for studying the culture of various peoples, but also for studying the history of science and museology in Russia. The online catalog presents Pallas’s collections on the ethnography of Volga Region peoples (MAE No. 766) in full and of Siberia (MAE No. 828), and a part of his collection of Buddhist sculpture (MAE No. 719).
J. A. Kupina, Candidate of Sciences, Deputy Director, MAE RAS; M. V. Khartanovich, Head of the IT Department; L. S. Lavrentieva, Candidate of Sciences, Senior Researcher, Department of Eastern Slavs and Peoples of European Russia; D. V. Ivanov, Candidate of Sciences, Senior Curator of the East and Southeast Asia depository.