Climate change leads to the discovery of hidden treasures trapped in Norwegian glaciers

Viking era sword found during excavations. Credits : Secrets of Ice / Einar Åmbakk.

One of the consequences of global warming is that the glaciers are melting. And although this has significant consequences for our planet, it can also lead to revealing ancient relics that had previously been frozen in the ice for thousands of year. This is notably the case in Norway. 

Archaeologists studying the ice caps on Norway’s highest summits have in fact recently discovered a wealth of artefacts, some of them dating back to 4,000 BCE: clothes, weapons and even ancient skis. Perfectly preserved animal skeletons were also found. In total, over 2,000 relics were discovered in the Jotunheimen region and in the mountains of Oppland County. The researchers hoped to establish the hunting and trading methods used by the ancient communities that once populated these snow-covered mountains.

One of the many arrows found by archaeologists, who regularly share their work on their website Secrets of Ice. Credits : Secrets of the Ice / Oppland County Council.

It seems that certain periods yielded more riches in terms of artefacts than others, showing how climatic, social and economic factors changed and shaped society over time. According to the researchers, who published their research in Royal Society Open Science, many objects date back to the “Little Ice Age”, which took place between the 5th and 7th centuries BCE. Depending on meteorological conditions, the inhabitants of Scandinavian countries were forced to put an end to their agricultural activities in order to focus on hunting and gathering.

Credits: Secrets of the Ice / Johan Wildhagen, Palookaville

Some of the objects uncovered date back to the 8th to 10th century AD, suggesting that hunting methods evolved during this era. As well as traditional techniques (bows and arrows), it appears that ancient hunters perfected the art of setting traps. From the 11th Century on wards, the team did not discover many objects, with the exception of certain weapons from the Viking era. The reduction in the number of artefacts from this era could be explained by the arrival of the plague in the mountains at that time.

Viking era sword found during excavations. Credits : Secrets of Ice / Einar Åmbakk.

Archaeology in the glaciers is a relatively new field of study. While traditional archaeology involves digging with shovels and spades, this new type involves very minimal excavation. Instead, researchers walk along the edges of the melting glaciers, camping out on the permafrost and recovering objects that become freshly freed from the ice, before they deteriorate from the elements. By being in the right place at the right time, researchers have the possibility of stumbling upon treasures that can help us better understand the history of man.