Due to the snow melting away in the Trollheim and Dovre mountains in Norway, well-preserved Neolithic hunting bow and arrows have been discovered by archaeologists from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
The ancient bow and arrows, which are thought to have belonged to Stone Age reindeer hunters, have been dated back to around 3,800-years-old with the oldest arrow dating back to 5,400-years. The bow has been identified as being made from elm wood, with the elm trees being found in the lower altitudes of the mountain, whereas the arrow heads have been identified as slate. Their shape and design has been noted as being very similar to those found in other cold glacial locations, such as the Yukon. On the striking similarities, Dr Martin Callanan, who led the archaeological excavation, has noted that: ‘the people in Norway, they didn’t have any contact with people in the Yukon, but they have the same type of adaption.’ This highlights how two different cultures, allopatrically separated, can adapt using similar techniques to overcome similar environmental challenges.
These ancient hunting artefacts were discovered in a patch of melting snow over the recent summers. Dr Callanan, has commented that the discovery is ‘a little bit unnerving’ due to the age of the artefacts and that they’re being discovered right now, owing to the changing levels of snow. But this isn’t the only recent archaeological discovery which was caused due to melting snow.
An intact jumper crafted from woven wool, dating between 230AD and 390AD, was discovered in the hunting area of the Norwegian Lendbreen glacier. ‘Due to global warming, rapid melting of snow patches and glaciers is taking place in the mountains of Norway as in other parts of the world, and hundreds of archaeological finds emerge from the ice each year’ commented Marianne Vedeler from the University of Oslo, and Lise Bender Jørgensen, from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. But is this sudden emergence of well-preserved artefacts something to worry about?
E. James Dixon, director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, has commented that if climate change is causing the ancient snow to melt, it is bad for archaeology. This is because the artefacts buried in the ice can be preserved for thousands of years, but when the ice melts and the artefacts become exposed to the current environment, they can quickly decompose. ‘For every artefact we find, there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, which are lost and destroyed for ever.’
Callanan, M. 2013. Melting snow patches reveal Neolithic Archery. Antiquity 87: 728-745. A .pdf of this interesting journal can be found here.
Daily Mail. 2013. Melting snow reveals remarkably well-preserved 5,400-year-old bow and arrows used to hunt reindeer in Norway. Daily Mail Online.
Daily Mail. 2013. Has global warming sparked an archaeological bonanza? Melting ice reveals 1,700-year-old woolly jumper – and experts say there is much more to come. Daily Mail Online.