Link: Artifacts melting out of Norwegian glaciers

An interesting short article in ScienceNordic reports on ancient items melting out of Scandinavian glaciers: “Items lost in the Stone Age are found in melting glaciers”.

An ancient route over the mountains once passed by the glacier where Lars Pilø and his colleagues conducted field work. People crossed the mountains with livestock, and went back and forth to their high summer farms – or simply travelled from one place to another. They have left a wide array of artefacts in their wake over the centuries, to the delight of 21st century archaeologists.

The problem of course is context. Ice can uniquely preserve some artifacts but the context of those artifacts with ancient activities is going to be very limited. Examining a former summer travel route is one way of adding context to the resulting artifacts. Another way is to find artifacts contextualized together. For example, Otzi carried an entire kit of clothing, tools and weapons, all found together and therefore telling us about the lifestyle of one individual.

Still, even without context from other artifacts or spatial placement, uniquely well-preserved artifacts can tell us something. A single knife blade hafted onto a well-preserved wooden handle tells us how all those other blades may have been hafted, even though their handles are never preserved at more conventional sites.