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Climate crisis: Melting mountain ice reveals ancient artefacts in Norway

An archaeological survey of the Langfonne ice patch in the Jotunheimen Mountains, Norway, has led to a haul of ancient artefacts. 

The results of the survey, which was conducted in 2014 and 2016, revealed Iron Age scaring sticks used in reindeer hunting, reindeer antlers, a 3,300-year-old shoe from the Bronze Age, and 68 arrows. 

The report’s authors have hailed the discovery of the arrows as the earliest ice finds in Northern Europe. 

Global warming has caused the the Langfonne ice patch, where the arrows were found, to melt the ice and cause it to retreat by more than 70 per cent over the past two decades, the study says.

"With the ice now retreating due to climate change, the evidence for ancient hunting at Langfonne is reappearing from what is in essence a frozen archive," said Lars Pilø, the study's lead author and an archaeologist from the Innlandet County Council, in a statement.

"The ice melt, sad as it is, provides an unprecedented archaeological opportunity for new knowledge."

The finds come in a range of conditions, with the arrows from 4000BC – the oldest arrows in the lot – in poor condition. However, the findings from the Late Neolithic period (2400-1750 BC) have been better preserved in comparison to those from the following 2,000 years, according to the study.

Using ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology, that ice movement may be the reason behind the deterioration of the oldest arrows. 

GPR data revealed ice deformation deep inside of the patch may have broken the old, brittle arrows, but it also helped to bring them to the surface to be discovered.

"Ice patches are not your regular archaeological sites," Mr Pilø said. "Glacial archeology has the potential to transform our understanding of human activity in the high mountains and beyond."

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