Ice sites connected to transport and mountain passes yield a much broader spectre of finds than hunting sites. The artefacts associated with transport may be traces from the transport itself, or items lost or discarded by travellers.

Transport - the mountain pass at Lendbreen
Archaeologists at work in the mountain pass above Lendbreen in 2011. From left: Jostein Bergstøl, Museum of Cultural History, Elling Utvik Wammer and Julian Martinsen, both Oppland County Council.

Artefacts from transport and mountain passes are mainly found in the Alps, where few hunting finds are made. The ice finds in northern Europe mainly derive from hunting, but there is one exception – the mountain pass at Lendbreen, which has yielded hundreds of transport-related finds. The most common finds are iron horseshoes (mostly Medieval), textiles, hide-shoes and remains of wooden ropes (Late Medieval and early Post-Medieval). Part of a horse harness from the Viking Age has also been recovered.

Medieval horseshoe
Medieval horseshoe, found at Lendbreen in 2015. Photo: Espen Finstad, Oppland County Council.

More than 20 horseshoes have been recovered from Lendbreen. Horseshoes were used from the 11th century onwards in Norway, and have changed their shape through time. This allows a dating of them. Most of the horseshoes from Lendbreen are Medieval (AD 1050-1537).

 

The cranium of a dead packhorse
Elling Utvik Wammer is holding the cranium of a packhorse, which died crossing the ice at Lendbreen c. 300 years ago. Photo: Espen Finstad, Oppland County Council.

Remains of two packhorses have been found. The oldest, of which only part of a jaw was preserved, dates to ca. AD 500. The other, of which so far the cranium and the pelvis have been found, has been dated to c. AD 1700.

Ancient horse dung
Ancient horse dung in the Lendbreen mountain pass. Photo: Vivian Wangen, Museum of Cultural History.

Old horse dung has also been preserved in the ice in the Lendbreen mountain pass. Several radiocarbon dates of the horse dung shows that it is between 800 and 1200 years old.

A tång found in the mountain pass at Lendbreen in 2011
A “tång” found in the mountain pass at Lendbreen in 2011. Not dated yet, but probably Iron Age or Medieval. From left: Vivian Wangen, Museum of Cultural History and Julian Martinsen, Oppland County Council. Photo: Espen Finstad, Oppland County Council.

A special group of finds from Lendbreen are what look like giant slingshots. One of them has been dated to ca. AD 400. Remarkably, similar objects were still used locally in the 20th century. They are called “tång”, and were used to strap down the load on sledges. This is a clear indication that people were also crossing the mountains during wintertime.

A walking stick with a runic inscription
Runic inscription on a walking stick from the 11th century. Photo: Vegard Vike, Museum of Cultural History.

Walking sticks have been found on several sites. They are mostly broken, but a few are complete. A runic inscription has been found on a broken walking stick from Lendbreen.

A journalist from Archaeology Magazine visited Lendbreen in 2012. You can read his report here.

Oppland Fylkeskommune

Responsible editors

Follow us