The Earth is a treasure trove, waiting for us to investigate it, discover, come up with conclusions, and learn. Recently, researchers have found a collection of ancient artifacts in a Norwegian ice patch, which has melted due to climate change.
They have discovered nearly 70 arrow shafts, shoes, textiles, and reindeer bones on a mountainside in Jotunheimen, about 240 miles from Oslo. Radiocarbon dating has shown that the oldest arrows date from around 4100 BC, and the most recent from 1300 AD.
These findings indicate that the area was once a popular site for reindeer hunting.
At the same time, the different amounts of weathering on the objects, as well as their seemingly random order, confront the conventional belief that ice patches are like photographs, sealing things in place and time as they were deposited.
- Researchers have found 68 arrows in a Norwegian ice patch. This one is a 1,300-year-old arrow discovered at Langfonne.
The team discovered 68 arrows in all, and some of them still had the arrowheads attached. The material of the heads varied, including iron, slate, quartzite, mussel shell, and even bone.
Some of them had the twine and tar used to affix them to a wooden shaft still attached. Most arrows dated to 700 through 750 AD, but some of the oldest were around six millennia old!
- A 4,000-year-old arrowhead made from quartzite.
- A 4,000-year-old arrow shaft. Radiocarbon dating showed that the oldest arrows are from around 4100 BC
- An aerial photo of Langfonne’s three separate main ice patches.
Archaeologist Lars Holger Pilø, now a researcher at the Innlandet County Council Cultural Heritage Department and a co-author of the new study, said:
“This is earlier than finds from any other ice site in Northern Europe, about 800 years earlier than Ötzi,’ the 5,100-year-old ice mummy found in the Tyrolean Alps in 1991.”
Researchers also found a well-preserved shoe over 3,000 years old, as well as fabric, which, according to Pilø, may have been used to package meat.
The Langfonne ice patch was first uncovered in 2006 when hiker Reidar Marstein found a leather shoe from the early Bronze Age there and reported it to Pilø.
Experts then thought that new layers of snow added to a patch, with older layers near the core and newer layers closer to the surface.
‘The idea was, ice is like a time machine. Anything that lands on it stays there and is protected.’
- The Langfonne ice patch was first discovered in 2006
- Arrows found at Langfonne-the nock end of an arrow and a partially preserved arrow shaft in four fragments
However, further research has discovered that the ice melted and re-froze many times over the millennia, and during this time, it shifted the arrows around from their original locations.
Therefore, older artifacts should have been in the same condition as newer ones, in case the patch acted as a time machine.
However, the Neolithic arrows were broken and heavily weathered, meaning that they had been exposed to the elements at various times.
- Archaeologists taking samples and artifacts from Langfonne.
It was reported that the 14th-century arrows ‘looked as though they were shot just yesterday’, which ‘ led to a suspicion that something had happened to them while inside the ice.’
- Langfonne ice patch, from the top of the mountain
Pilø explains that it is not easy to obtain information about the people who used these artifacts, as apart from the role as a preserver, the ice can be ‘ a destroyer of history’ at the same time.
However, as Langfonne, now split into three smaller patches, continues to thaw, researchers might find out more on the subject.
Montana State Parks archaeologist Rachel Reckin, who was not part of the research team, says:
“Time is of the essence, and we’re trying to be good scientists while doing the best we can with the data we have. Every piece of this puzzle that helps us understand the complexity of these processes is really helpful.”