6,000-Year-Old Pre-Viking Artifacts Discovered in Norway as Climate Change Melts Glaciers
Oppland, Norway, is a cold place that's only getting warmer. Preserved in its ancient ice are some extremely rare artifacts that pre-date the Vikings—organic materials like wood and animal hides, frozen and kept near intact from decay.
Now those 6,000-year-old artifacts are thawing out, exposed to the elements due to rising temperatures. A team of archeologists surveying an area 1,400 feet up Oppland's glaciers from 2006 to 2015 found 2,000 artifacts dating back from 4,000 BCE to the beginnings of the Renaissance.
Many of the artifacts are tied to reindeer hunting, as the animals used to gather on the patches of ice in summer months. The artifacts included arrows and poles that would guide the reindeer on a path toward hunters, along with skis, clothes and other tools.
While such discoveries might sound like one of the few positive effects of climate change, the rapidly melting glaciers put added pressure on archeologists to uncover and catalog these artifacts in a timely manner.
"In the context of global warming, the melting of perennial ice patches is revealing and destroying an unprecedented archaeological record of high-altitude hunting and the use of mountain passes," reads the newly published study. "In response, a new research subject, glacial archaeology, is rapidly developing to rescue now-threatened artifacts and to study the relationship between variability in climate and the intensity of human use of alpine landscapes."
By dating these artifacts, the archeologists are learning much about the relationship between climate change and the frequency of reindeer hunting, along with other high-altitude activities. Sometimes changing climates meant certain glaciers blocking or clearing various alpine passes. In other instances, environmental change affected regional demographics and populations, which in turn determined how often those high-altitude paths were used. Changing climate has also played a huge factor in determining what natural resources grow on the glacier, which in turn determines what game, from reindeer to bighorn sheep, graze there.