Lendbreen, Lom, Norway —
Melting ice in the mountains of Norway has revealed items that have been frozen there since traders passed through over 1,000 years ago. The items were in nearly perfect condition, giving historians a fresh look at life during Viking times.
Norway is no stranger to ice and snow. Because of the country’s many mountains and its position in the far north of Europe, much of the land is covered with ice. But as a result of climate change, many of Norway’s icy areas have been melting. Some have revealed interesting surprises.
The first hint that the Lendbreen ice patch on Lomseggen Ridge might hold secrets came in 2011. The melting ice revealed a tunic – a piece of clothing similar to a coat or a poncho. The tunic was made of wool and turned out to be around 1,700 years old.
The tunic was found in an area that once was a special path through the mountains, called a “pass”. Because the pass was used by many people trying to cross the mountain, scientists have discovered many signs of the people who came through.
From 2011 to 2015, researchers studied the site carefully. They found around sixty objects. Since then, the ice has continued to melt, and the scientists have found nearly 1,000 objects.
Some, like the tunic, were left there nearly 1,700 years ago. But most of the items are from around 1,000 years ago, when the Vikings were powerful and traded all through northern Europe.
It was clear that many people came through the icy pass. The researchers found many cairns – piles of rocks meant to show travelers the way. They even found a small shelter, which was probably used by travelers who got caught in bad weather at the top.
The ice turned out to be perfect for keeping the items in good shape for hundreds of years. Normally, items made of wool, wood, leather, or feathers would break down over the years. But the scientists found an amazing collection of different items in excellent shape.
Besides things like tunics and mittens and shoes, the researchers found wooden tools and boxes. They even found an arrow with feathers still on it.
The scientists found many clues that traders came through carrying things on horses. In addition to horse skulls and skeletons, the team found horseshoes. Recently, they even found a snowshoe for a horse. As the ice melted, it left thawed horse poo all around.
The pass was used to bring products from one side of the mountain to the other. The researchers found parts of sleds, which could have been dragged behind the horses. They also found signs of other farm animals, like baby goats.
The scientists aren’t just excited about the items they’ve found. They’re pleased because the items help tell a story about how and why people moved about in the past. By comparing the age of the items they’ve found, the scientists can tell a lot about how people used the pass in different ways at different times.
Did You Know…?
In 2019, almost all of the remaining ice in Lendbreen melted, so the team doesn’t expect many more surprises there. But their finds at Lendbreen give them hope that many more secrets may still be lying under the ice in other places in Norway.