Using ice as a time machine, an archaeologist explains how it works

Iron Age arrowheads have been unearthed in excellent condition in recent archaeological digs in Norway. For the last 1500 years, it has been buried at Joutenheimens behind a glacier. Archaeologists are scouring the borders of the receding ice in Sweden, too, in search of artifacts from long ago.

According to Lars Holger Pil, a Norwegian glacial archaeologist, they are finding more than just the arrowheads themselves, including the arrow shafts, tendons, feathers, and other features that provide light on ancient life.

To date, he has aided in the discovery of 200 arrows in the same region. The oldest one is older than 6 thousand years. But time is of the essence for the archaeologists. A rapid decay process begins as soon as the things thaw.

You’ll need to do some exploring, maybe even venturing up into the mountains, to find what’s thawing. Lars Holger Pil claims that the ice acts like a massive time machine.

Abiskofjällen in Sweden is home to a new study initiative that involves glaciologists and archaeologists trekking along the glacier’s edge. Archaeologists pinpoint where ancient reindeer hunters should have drove reindeer in the high mountains, and glaciologists determine where ice has been frozen for a long time. The genetic information contained in reindeer bones and horns reveals how the wild ancestors of today’s domesticated reindeer migrated away from their original habitat. Human-made artifacts are substantially less common in Sweden than they are in Norway.

Project leader and archeology professor Kerstin Lidén hypothesizes that the greater number of discoveries in Norway is related to the fact that more people lived in the country’s highlands than in Sweden’s highest peaks.

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