OSLO – The patches of ice that melted on the slopes of a remote mountain pass in Norway have revealed artifacts that provide a new insight into the way of life of hunters, traders and travelers over a route that spanned thousands of years, archaeologists said this month.
The relics of this distant past include woolen tunics and gloves, leather shoes, arrows are still adorned with feathers and snow shoes made for horses. Giant piles of stones mark ancient paths that traders used to find their way through fog and heavy snow. Horns, bones and animal dung were also found, said the archaeologists behind the project.
The findings described in the scientific journal Antiquity, were made in the central mountain range of Innlandet County, Norway, by the Glacier Archeology Program, one of many programs around the world that studies what glaciers and ice patches are leaving exposed as they change and melt due to climate changes.
Archaeologists said the findings contributed to evidence that a mountain pass in Lendbreen, in the Lomseggen mountain range in northwest Norway, was part of a larger network that connected it to the wider Viking world, making it the “first ice site discovered in Northern Europe. "
Previously, they said, the archeology of mountain glacier passages had been derived from research in the Alps.
"The discoveries are rich," said Lars Holger Pilo, a Norwegian archaeologist who works on the project. “It is obvious that the mountains have been used more actively than previously thought. Although covered with ice, they used them to pass, from farms in the area or from one side of the mountains to the other. "
The program started working in the Lendbreen ice area in 2006, but attention increased after a woolen tunic, which was later dated to the Bronze Age, was found in 2011. This led to subsequent research and discoveries of artifacts, such as sledges, horse remains and kitchen utensils, suggesting that the route was used for trade, hunting and agriculture.
The findings show that the pass was used between AD 300 and 1500, with a peak in activity during the Viking Era in the year 1000 that reflected its importance during a long-range trade and trade in Scandinavia.
The items tell a story of how the route was used and reflect local priorities, as agriculture migrated from the valley floor to higher elevations in the summer to take advantage of the long hours of the day. It was well traveled and connected to other parts of the country and, finally, to export ports.
"What was really telling is when you look at the chronology of the artifacts," said Dr. James Barrett, a medieval and environmental archaeologist at the University of Cambridge, who has worked with Norwegian archaeologists on the project since 2012.
"You can literally follow in the footsteps of the past," he said. "It really shows that, in what appears to be the most remote place possible, the highest rise is achieved by broader world trends."
Research in Norway has contributed to the archaeological body of study centered on items found under ice, either on glaciers that shake all over the ground or on more stationary ice patches and generally produce intact pieces.
These findings illuminated scientists' understanding of transhumance, which describes how, where and why people moved from place to place in search of commerce, food, marriage or customs – sometimes over icy mountains, rather than more terrain. easy, but longer distances. valleys.
In 1991, hikers accidentally discovered the remains of a man, later nicknamed Ötzi, the Tyrolean iceman, preserved in 5,300 years of ice and snow in the Italian Alps. This marked the beginning of a promising period of archeology that picked up pace as climate warming revealed more artifacts, said Stephanie Rogers, assistant professor of research in the department of geosciences at Auburn University.
Iceman's bacterial examination has contributed to understanding human migration and movement of pathogens, including what causes stomach ulcers, to other parts of the world.
Rogers, who has done research on glacier archeology in the Alps, said the Iceman's discovery "really changed a switch".
"What was this person doing up there?" she asked, adding that the researchers realized that "if we find something in this place, we will find something in other places".
The transhumance field has gained momentum in the past 10 to 20 years, as the artifacts were exposed because of the hot climate from melting ice patches and moving glaciers, Rogers said.
"Perhaps this site in Norway has the perfect characteristics for transhumance across the border," she said. “But perhaps it was the perfect setting, broadcast for hundreds or thousands of years. It seems that this particular one is a treasure in terms of artifacts.
Pilo said the Norwegian team found no human remains, possibly because relatives of a missing person would likely have come to rescue his family. The tunic may have been thrown by a person in the irrational midst of hypothermia, he said.
Although stretches of ice move less than glaciers, some of the findings on the Lendbreen stretch have been displaced vertically and others have been displaced by melted water and strong winds.
The ruins of an undated stone-built shelter were located near the top of the ice patch, making Lendbreen the only one of the five mountain passes in the Lomseggen mountain range to have a shelter and a large number of piles of stones. Transport-related artifacts, such as remains of sleds, walking sticks and Bronze Age ski pieces, were also on display.
The movement, or lack of movement, of some objects can also be revealing. Iron horseshoes and nails are less likely to be displaced than lighter organic objects and "should therefore provide a reliable indication of the route," the researchers wrote.
Although some artifacts have been found in pieces, "they do not erase what remains a clear trail of features and discover that they outline a short crossing point over the mountain's summit," according to the results.
"It was clearly a route of special significance," said the researchers.