Ice melt reveals historical artefacts

By Richard Gravelle

It’s become something of a trend for me to write about the negative effects of climate change, and particularly the retreat of glaciers.  Recently however, I found a news story that does, in some ways, provide a small upshot to climatic warming.

A team of archaeologists working on recently deglaciated land in the Jotunheimen mountains of Norway have revealed that melting ice is exposing historical artefacts faster than they can collect them.  Although the preservation of historical artefacts is not uncommon (Italy’s ice man Otzi for example), Jotunheimen is proving unusual due to the sheer numbers of artefacts being discovered at the same time – around 600 in one area alone.

The items are believed to be pre-Viking hunting equipment, including sharpened sticks, bows and arrows, as well as some items of clothing though to be around 3,400 years old.

Unfortunately, the rate of exposure of such artefacts and the limited time and manpower resources available to the archaeologists means that items are being lost at an alarming rate.  One exposed, items require immediate preservation and refreezing (often within a few days) before they rot away and are lost forever.

With increasing ice mass loss threatening to expose more historical pieces, lets hope that these are found and preserved, and do not become history themselves.

Alister Doyle, Reuters, September 14th 2010, Home of “Ice Giants” thaws, shows pre-Viking hunts.

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