An ancient arrow is among artifacts to emerge from melting Norwegian ice | ET REALITY


Espen Finstad was trudging through the mud in eastern Norway’s Jotunheimen Mountains this month when he came across a wooden arrow, tied with a pointed tip made of quartzite. Complete with feathers, it was so well preserved that it looked as if it had recently been lost.

But Finstad, a glacial archaeologist from Innlandet County, knew better. According to his estimates, the arrow is probably about 3,000 years old.

“I was really excited,” he said. “I had never seen anything like it before because it was so complete.”

The find, which Finstad and his colleagues believe belonged to a reindeer hunter in late Stone Age or early Bronze AgeIt is one of thousands of artifacts and remains that have emerged from melting ice in recent years, as climate change melts permafrost and glaciers around the world.

Last month, the global surface temperature was 1.25 degrees Celsius above the 20th century average, making it the warmest August on record on the planet, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That heat is rapidly melting ice, from the American West to Kilimanjaro, the Dolomites and the Himalayan Mountains.

The melting ice presents a fleeting opportunity for glacial archaeologists: they must find historical treasures as they emerge from the ice and before they are destroyed by the elements.

“We are in a kind of race against time,” said Lars Holger Pilo, a glacial archaeologist and Finstad’s colleague. “We really need to work even harder to save as many of these artifacts as possible.”

For more than a decade, his team, which runs the Secrets of ice project, has traveled through mountain passes throughout the country. The project, a cooperative effort between the Innlandet County Municipality and the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo, was founded in 2011.

Since then, the team has discovered around 4,000 artefacts and remains, including a 1,000-year-old wooden whisk and Viking mitten, medieval horseshoes, Bronze Age skis and more than 150 arrows.

Similar work is underway near Anchorage, Alaska, as well as in northeastern Siberia and Mongolia.

Among the most interesting findings are Yukaa 39,000-year-old mammoth calf found in Siberia in 2010, and a 280 million year old tree fossil found in Antarctica in 2016. But the most famous of all is Ötzi — a 5,300-year-old ice man found in 1991 by hikers on northern Italy’s border with Austria.

Ötzi was initially assumed to be an unlucky mountaineer, but was later determined to be a Copper Age companion, making him the best-preserved mummy in history. Since then, he has shed light on the social bonds, diets and lives of Copper Age humans.

“We always hope for an ice mummy,” Dr. Pilo said. “But of course the chances of that happening are really small.”

For now, he and his colleagues are happy with the roughly 250 objects pulled from melted mud in Norway this year, including a knife from the viking agea iron horse bitand several arrows, including the 3,000-year-old artifact.

What makes the arrow so impressive, Finstad said, is its preservation: Although it is divided into three parts, the arrowhead remains attached to the shaft, as do the feathers, known as fletchings, which help stabilize the flight path of the arrow. Once scientists carbon date the arrow, they will be able to determine its exact age.

William Taylor, an associate professor of archeology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who was not involved in the Norwegian field research, said what was “incredible” about the nearly intact arrow was that it helped fill in the gaps about how such objects were formed. were made and used.

“We’re often kind of guessing at the big picture from what was robust enough to endure through the centuries,” said Dr. Taylor, who is conducting similar research amid melting ice in Mongolia. The arrow, he added, “leaves nothing to the imagination.”

He noted that time is running out to find objects before they deteriorate.

“This is a discipline that exists almost exclusively because we are in the midst of catastrophic global climate change,” he said.

Finstad, the Norwegian archaeologist who discovered the arrow, described the find as one of his “10 favorites” because its near-pristine condition had helped him imagine the lives of those who had lived and died in the same mountains.

“You also feel a kind of special connection to the people who lost him,” he said.

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