More ice patch archaeology bork bork bork

3400 year old shoe from a Norwegian ice patch. Source: Reuters.

It’s interesting to see some ice patch archaeology emerging in Norway now.   Reuters has a good story and short video about some cool finds from 1800 metres above sea level in the Jotunheimen Mountains, which lie northeast of Bergen.  The most spectacular find is the 3,400 year old leather shoe, shown above.

"Scare Stick" for herding reindeer. Source: Reuters.

There are also a number of “scare sticks” like the one above, inferred to have been part of reindeer driving lanes.  A separate piece of smaller wood would be attached to the top where there is a notch, and this would apparently flap in the breeze.  When arranged in lines, these sticks would create a visual illusion of a line of humans waving/threatening the reindeer.  This is an interesting kind of technology which I don’t recall being recovered from the North American ice patches although drive lanes were of course widely used.  As with the North American patches,  there are also numerous projectiles, some still bearing their feather fletching and copious quantities of dung, which tells its own long-winded story.  In the video, the scientists have dug a deep ice cave into one of the patches, for some reason that is not made clear, and they have mounted replicas into the icy walls of this cavern – it is not clear from the narration that these are, indeed, not real artifacts in their primary context so don’t faint when you see them!

While these finds are new to me, they have apparently been known since at least 2006.  It is inspiring to see these finds from a context so comparable to the B.C. Coast Range – there must be so much material there, and even on Vancouver Island or Haida Gwaii.  The Norwegians have recovered over 600 perishable artifacts from a single ice patch in a short period of time. Get to work, B.C. Archaeologists!

There is a conference upcoming in Norway on frozen archaeology worldwide, and perusing the titles of the papers gives a good idea of the scope of this exciting archaeological subdiscipline which sadly requires humans to be warming the planet….

Artifacts not in their original place of discovery - screenshot from Reuters video. Click to play.

9 responses to “More ice patch archaeology bork bork bork

  1. There’s a short comment at the link below by an archaeologist familiar with the Norwegian material which confirms that the examples shown inside the snow cave are replicas. It also notes that almost everything other than the shoe dates to the last 1500 years or so.


  2. Is ‘fliurdy, fliurdy, fliurdy’ the correct response? Was that Sesame Street or Laugh-In? Shows your age, anyway. Very cool, but I wish they had a pic of the original arrow. I note your blog entry is already incorporated in the bowyer (never knew that was a word!) forum. I cringe to think how much in BC is being lost every warm year with no-one looking!


  3. Oh, and here is a longer video, subtitles, which explains the drive lines and many other aspects of the Norwegian research. (It says 1.42 but is actually almost 5 minutes long)

    The youtube version is slightly clearer, to my eyes


  4. Wow, LOVED the detailed pics and the video! Such a treat to see well-photographed with artifacts with clearly visible detail.

    Seems like the drive lane ‘scare sticks’ are essentially bull-roarers. I wonder now about the etiology of that unusual word; does it have anything to do with driving ungulates I wonder?


  5. Oh, and are those British pounds in the ice cave tour prices? Could they really be 300 for adults and 700 for a family?


  6. This Yukon website has a few pages of ice patch archaeology that might be of interest – good images if you press the “next” button at the bottom of the page you will find three or so pages about this topic.


  7. More on Norwegian ice patch archaeology is featured in this weeks’ Science magazine (unfortunately behind a paywall however):


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