In Norway, melting ice releases a 3,000-year-old shoe

In Norway, melting ice releases a 3,000-year-old shoe


A new report from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) details the discovery of thousands of artifacts released by melting ice. Among them is a small shoe worn more than 3,000 years ago.

Within decades, large areas of Norwegian ice sheets began to melt, exposing perfectly preserved artifacts. These plates form at high altitudes where snow and ice deposits accumulate and do not melt completely in the summer. Unlike glaciers, these structures are immobile, so objects deposited inside can remain stable for hundreds or thousands of years. The absence of corrosive compounds also favors their preservation.

In recent years, weapons, clothing, textiles and other plant and animal remains have emerged from the ice as temperatures warm, helping to shed light on thousands of years of local history. . Among these objects is the oldest shoe in Norway, worn more than 3,000 years ago (1,100 BC, during the Bronze Age). It was discovered a few years ago in the mountains of Jotunheimen, in the south of the country.

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The shoe is size 36. According to archaeologists, it therefore belonged either to a woman or to a young person. It was discovered alongside several arrows and a wooden shovel, suggesting the site was an important hunting ground. According to the new report, reindeer are indeed drawn to the region’s mountainous ice patches during the summer months for relief from insect bites and heat. Where the reindeer went, the hunters followed, leaving behind thousands of artifacts.

A threatened treasure

When the ice begins to melt, these objects, which remained intact, suddenly find themselves exposed to daylight, which ultimately accelerates their deterioration.

Until now, all of these artifacts were recovered quickly enough to avoid degradation by the elements. However, these rescue operations are becoming increasingly complicated as these patches of ice melt faster and faster. If scientists are unable to recover these objects soon after the merger begins, then they run the risk of losing them.

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“A survey based on satellite images taken in 2020 shows that more than 40% of the ten selected ice patches with known findings have melted,” said report co-author Birgitte Skar. “These numbers suggest a significant threat to the preservation of ice finds, not to mention the ice as a climate archive.”

Until now, the Norwegian plates have been understudied due to their lack of interest. In reality, these structures have much more to offer us than it seems. For this reason, the researchers propose to launch a national monitoring program using remote sensors. In this way, they could secure any objects that would emerge from the cast.