Climate change and melting ice in Norway have continued to reveal ancient artifacts, and since 2006 archaeologists have found more than 3,000 relics in the county of Oppland alone, including a 3,400-year-old shoe and a tunic that dates back to the Iron Age.
As CNN reports, Norway has had so many artifacts suddenly appearing on the scene that a new archaeological program called Secrets of the Ice has been developed. With this new program comes fresh conservation efforts as well as study and documentation of the items recovered.
Because such vast amounts of ice are melting in Norway, archaeologists haven’t even had to dig to find the newest artifacts, but are simply walking around and scouting over different areas to see what has thawed and been left behind. While archaeologists are certainly excited to be finding so many ancient artifacts so easily, the flip side of this is that thawing is happening so very quickly that archaeologists fear many of the relics will be destroyed before they reach them.
As Vibeke Vandrup Martens, an archaeologist at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research, explained, “Glaciers melt back at an alarming pace because of higher temperatures, less snow and more rain, and in doing so they expose archaeological finds that have been safely ice-covered for centuries or even millennia.”
As might be expected, Viking arrows have been discovered in abundance in Norway, and in the Jotunheimen Mountains melting ice has caused 70 arrows to resurface, one of these after 6,000 years.
Lars Pilø, co-director of Secrets of the Ice, noted, “At our sites we experience a rapid melting and bits and pieces of human history melt out in reverse time order.”
Of course, Pilø’s fondest wish, or “ultimate find,” as he has called it, would be to discover a Norwegian version of Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old hunter who was discovered in the Alps back in 1991. While Pilø has admitted that the odds of this happening are quite unlikely, he has nevertheless prepared for the occasion, should it ever arise, by making certain that an “ice mummy kit” is available and at the ready should another Ötzi appear in Norway.
However, assuming there really was an Ötzi hidden beneath deep folds of ice somewhere in Norway, his home would not be safe for very long, according to Professor Atle Nesje of the University of Bergen, who is fairly certain that by the end of this century up to 90 percent of the country’s glaciers will have melted if climate change continues on the path it is right now.
While archaeologists are working their hardest to conserve every artifact they discover beneath the melting ice of Norway, Martens has stated that “there is definite urgency” to this work and that without enough time “the artifacts and/or sites that belong to the whole community may be lost forever, without any recording they ever existed.”