Secrets of the Ice

The Archaeology of Glaciers and Ice Patches

We surveyed along the melting ice when one of our team members suddenly cried out: "I have found an arrow shaft! It's sticking out of the scree." He had found the nock end of a shaft. We couldn't see the front end as very little light penetrated down amongst the stones. Could it have a preserved arrowhead? "Quick, bring a flashlight!" We got the flashlight from our finds kit, turned it on and directed the beam downwards. And this was what we saw at the other end of the shaft - a Viking Age arrowhead❤ #glacialarchaeology #climatechange ...

Someone lost their mitten while crossing the Lendbreen ice in the Viking Age. The mitten disappeared into the snow and ice in the pass. The owner probably thought that it was gone forever, but not so🙂 We found the mitten melting out of the retreating ice patch 1100 years later.

The mitten is made from several pieces of textile sewn together. It is the only known Viking Age mitten from Norway, even though mittens were likely regularly used during winter time back then, just as they are now.

Clothing items are a common find in mountain passes. They could have been lost accidentally, like being taken by a gust of wind. We have left behind our fair share of gloves and hats on our sites🙂 Or there could be more sinister reasons that they were left behind😮. Read more about that here
Photo: Vegard Vike/Museum of Cultural History #glacialarchaeology #climatechange

This strange artifact melted out of the ice in the Lendbreen pass. We scratched our heads to try to figure out what it had been used for but we couldn't come up with a good answer. The object was exhibited at the local museum, and a visiting elderly woman solved the mystery for us. She had used such objects on a local farm in the 1930s!😮

She told us that it is a bit for young animals, mainly goat kids and lambs, to stop them from getting milk from their mothers. The carved furrows on each end originally had string attached, which was used for fastening behind the ears, so the bit wouldn't come loose. Usually, such bits were made in juniper, she said, as this is a very tough wood.

Prior to radiocarbon dating, the wood species on our piece was also determined to be juniper. It is the only example of the use of juniper in our more than 200 radiocarbon dated samples! Now we only needed to know how old it was. The sample travelled to Beta Analytic in Florida. We were stunned when the result came back: The bit belonged to the 11th century AD - it was 1000 years old😮 #glacialarchaeology

Julian is marvelling at the second longest arrow shaft that we have recovered from the ice😮 The shaft measures 1 m in length🙂 A similar arrow shaft found at another site is radiocarbon-dated to be 2600 years old, i.e. from the Late Bronze Age. We have quite a few very long arrow shafts and all the radiocarbon-dated ones are 2000 years old or older.

When we enter the 1st millenium AD our arrow shafts are not longer than 80 cm. Is the shortening of the shafts linked to the introduction of the heavier iron arrowheads, which substituted the light arrowheads of stone, bone and shell used earlier? Maybe the extra length of the earlier arrows was partly because of the need for increased weight and impact energy? What do you think?🤨 #glacialarchaeology

Glacier Archaeologists in the Field

Med brearkeologer ved isen