Melting snowfields reveal ancient world

Melting snowfields reveal ancient world

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As well as uncovering 10,000 year-old mammoth tusks in Siberia and 5,000 year old icemen in the Ötztal Alps, climate change in the Norwegian mountains is revealing other “glimpses of the frozen past.”



Two papers in the September 2013 issue of the journal Antiquity detail the finds of Iron Age clothing and 6,000 year old weapons in Norway, and highlight the urgency of discovering and recovering other perishable prehistoric artefacts from the melting snowfields.

The discovery of an Iron Age tunic under the receding Lendbreen glacier was the most spectacular find.  The woollen garment, made between 230 and 390 AD, showed wear and tear and had been repaired with two patches.  Marianne Vedeler from the University of Oslo, who analysed the tunic, said it was, “…of great significance for dress and textile production and how these reflect the interplay between northern Europe and the Roman world.  The Lendbreen tunic is a first glimpse of the kind of warm clothing used by hunters frequenting the ice patches of Scandinavia in pursuit of reindeer.  It had no buttons or fastenings, but was simply drawn over the head like a sweater.  The patching shows that this was not the first stage of the tunic’s life; indeed, the hunter who abandoned it may not have been its first owner.”

Fragments of 5 arrowshafts and a longbow found in the Oppdal area of Norway in 2011 show how Neolithic hunters were attracted to the snow patches in search of game 4,000 years earlier.  Martin Callanan of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who wrote the paper on the bow and arrow fragments, said: “When people lost their arrows they lost them in the snow patches.  These are unique finds, they are a signal that something is changing up there.  As snow patches are starting to melt, people are finding archaeological artefacts in all sorts of different places and they are often quite well preserved.  The number and antiquity of some of these artefacts is unprecedented in the almost century-long history of snow patch surveying in the region.  At the same time, as the climate continues to heat up and the snows melt away, one wonders what long-term price there will be to pay for these glimpses of the frozen past.”

Iron Age tunic discovered under the Lendbreen glacier, Norway - image Marianne Vedeler
Iron Age tunic discovered under the Lendbreen glacier, Norway – image Marianne Vedeler

Source: BBC

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