The melting glaciers of Norway have released over 2,000 artifacts buried in its ice for thousands of years. Because the items had been buried in ice for millennia, they are remarkably well-preserved and provide insight into past human activity.

Glacial Archaeology

The ice in high mountains is already melting as a result of climate change. For a decade now, researchers from Secrets of the Ice project have been collecting the artifacts being revealed as a result of the ice melt. Amazingly, because these items have been encased in ice for millennia, the items they have been finding are exceptionally well-preserved even if some of them date back to 4,000 BC.

Some of their incredible finds include 180 arrows from the Iron Age, clothes from the Bronze Age, wooden skis, skulls of a pack of horses, and Viking swords. According to researchers, one can practically find anything in the glacial mountain passes.

In fact, they have even found well-preserved artifacts made of organic material such as cloth or leather. Had the said items been exposed to the sun and the elements, they would not be as well-preserved or perhaps even be preserved at all.

Artifact Pattern

So far, out of the 2,000 artifacts, 150 have been dated. Researchers state that dating the artifacts also reveals the pattern of human activity in the mountains and perhaps even the climate. For instance, with the earliest artifacts dated to 4,000 BC., they believe that this was a result of then glaciation in the region after the warming during the Holocene, a time when there was probably little ice to preserve any artifacts.

Further, the distribution of the artifacts is not equal or consistent. The most striking pattern they noticed was that of the artifact peak of the Late Antique Little Ice Age about 536 to 660 AD. Although this was a cooling period when populations likely decreased, the peak in artifact finds suggests that the people at the time relied largely on hunting reindeer for sustenance because of the bleak agricultural situation.

Conversely, researchers noticed a sharp decline in artifacts after another peak during the eighth, ninth, and tenth century even before the plague began. A possible explanation for the decrease may be the replacement of bow-and-arrow hunting with mass harvesting techniques.

In summation, researchers find so far that there could be four factors that could explain the artifact pattern: the reindeer population, the climate history, human activity, and preservation issues.

The study is published in Royal Society Open Science.

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