Because of climate change, a huge haul of arrows dating from the Stone Age to the medieval period have in recent years melted out of a single ice patch in Norway. Read more about how secrets of the ice in Norway has been revealed.
According to the journal The Holocene, researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oslo and Bergen have discovered 68 arrow shafts, some with arrowheads attached. The arrowheads are made of a range of materials, including bone, slate, iron and mussel shell. In some cases, the ice even preserved twine and tar used to hold the arrow together.
William Taylor, an anthropologist at the University of Colorado Boulder who was not involved in the study, tells New Scientist that the discoveries represent a “treasure trove” not usually found in a single patch of melting ice.
The study was surrounded by secrecy for a long period because the area was so rich in artefacts. The oldest arrows date from around 4100 BC while the youngest are from roughly AD 1300, based on radiocarbon analysis. However, the dates aren’t evenly distributed across the millennia, raising questions about whether environmental conditions during some periods were more likely to preserve fallen arrows than at other times. Peaks and troughs in reindeer hunting activity could also have played a role.
“Doing fieldwork here and finding all the arrows was an incredible experience, an archaeologist’s dream. I remember telling the crew: ‘Enjoy the moment as much as you can. You will never experience anything like it again,’” said Lars Holger Pilø from Innlandet County Council’s Department of Cultural Heritage, who is a co-author of the paper.
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Based on the nearly 300 specimens of reindeer antler and bone also secreted by the ice, and the fact that reindeer still frequent the area, the archaeologists are confident that the area served as a key hunting ground for millennia.
“We thought that one item could perhaps be as old as the Viking Age if we were lucky,” Lars Holgar Pilø, writes on Secrets of the Ice, a website maintained by the researchers.
“When the radiocarbon date came back it turned out to be much older—3300 years old, from the Early Bronze Age. That find was a real shocker for us.”
The ice storage has shifted and deformed over time, meaning that the arrows, arrow heads and other items have been moved over the years. This means it’s difficult to read too much into the specific activities they were used for, says Pilø.
Secrets of the Ice in Norway Revealed, written by Tor Kjolberg
All images © Secrets of the Ice