In 1974, Per Dagsgard trekked through the Jotunheim mountains in Norway in an endeavor to get to a certain point. This terrain is full of glaciers, which are ice formations that have been around for millions of years, what is interesting about them is that they can move, incredibly slowly, but nevertheless they still shift over time. However, an ice patch does not, but freezes as deep as 70 feet When ice patches grow over time, they can in fact become glaciers. And this is what interested the avid hiker that day, as he searched for parts of history that nobody else had discovered. He longed to find clues about ancient people of the ice age. He climbed and climbed to fulfill his desire. There are similar folk out there, such as glaciologists and archeologists who like him find these frozen artifacts extremely mind-blowing. Fragments of time, cemented in history. A popular place to find them, has been Europe and Canada in the ice and the snow. Imagine finding lost parts of history, and being able to decipher what kind of people lived in those times.
In The Ice
Why in the ice? You might be wondering, well these interesting pieces of history were discarded thousands and thousands of years ago, close to the start of these glacial formations and have been hidden by the snow and ice for all this time.
So therefore, for centuries, nobody has known about them, until the glaciers have started to move, and the ice has begun to melt, revealing some quite incredible things.
Global Warming Issue
Due to the rate of global warming, glaciers are melting at an unexpected pace, which means that those researching and looking for these artifacts such as historians, need to do this quickly, as nobody quite knows when the ice will melt fully.
Albert Hafner, an experienced glacier archaeologist from the University of Bern, stated sternly in an interview with Archaeology magazine, “If [we] don’t do it now, [these artifacts] will be lost.” This is worrying not only for nature and the future of the planet, but for researchers are really pushed for time.
Glaciers Melting Fast
With that being said. Archeologists are also faced with pressing matters, that a lot of these preserved artifacts that have been found in the ice, have not lasted, and have been cemented in fragments and loose pieces, gradually worn down and damaged over time.
Also when the glaciers start to move, this can affect the object and often leave it crushed. Relics that have been frozen into ice patches have a better chance of survival as they have literally been frozen in time in a time capsule as such. However, researchers definitely have their work cut out for them.
Ice Patch Hiding History
So when it came to Lendbreen ice patch, this wasn’t a regular excavation site. Situated in the highest mountains range in Europe’s northern parts, the Jotunheim mountains were titled that after a mythical frost due to the fact that they are always covered in snow.
The ice patch in question, is in the middle of a ridge that links two different valleys, with the only people crossing, are interested individuals like Per. It was only accessible by foot in order to reach the ice patch. Due to a warm summer, a lot of the ice in this range had melted, which led to something extraordinary being found in the ice. Something from the Bronze Age.
Incredible Relics Found
An old shoe was found, and this was truly incredible. What’s more, since then, nearly 1,700 relics have been discovered in and around the area. Of that large number, two objects that have been found, hold quite notable significance. These are items of clothing, such as a woolen tunic which was found in 2011.
It looked to have been worn by a man due to its size. They also dated it back to the Iron Age. The same year, archeologists stumbled upon a mitten, and this was dated back to the Viking period, due to radiocarbon testing.
And Then Dagsgard came on to the scene, a student of the Norwegian municipality. In 1974 he trekked to the ice patch eagerly, on an adventure in search of reindeer hunting clues. He hiked for over two hours, but when he got to the spot, something unusual and unexpected happened.
What he saw he did not expect at all, the ice patch had melted far more than he imagined and was a lot smaller than reported.
Exploring The Glacier
So on this day, he continued to explore the Lendbreen area, all the while looking at the rocks and in the ice, and there he noticed something lurking, something just waiting to be discovered.
There in all its glory, was a wooden shaft, just happily laying surrounded by pebbles. On the end of it, he noticed that there was a piece of iron cut in a particular shape fixed to it. This was, he realized, a spear.
Never Before Been Discovered
He of course was knowledgeable and clued up about this area and the historical period, and knew that explorers before him had found arrowheads from the Viking era in this exact spot, so he believed that this piece of history he had come across, was from the same time.
So his next move, was to pick up the shaft and the head that had separated from it, and take it back down the mountain with him in his trusty backpack for all to see.
As the wood was in such excellent condition, it was seemingly not at risk of decomposition. The staff at Oslo’s archaeological museum were suitably impressed with the student’s find.
Sverre Marstrander – the archaeologist who had asked Dagsgard about the size of the ice patch dated the object. And it turned out that Dagsgard’s gut feeling was correct, the spear had once probably belonged to a Viking.
Devoid of any evidence of decorative markings, the spearhead was strikingly simple in its appearance. It reportedly measured just over 17 inches, boasting a blade of around 12 inches in length and approximately two inches across at its widest point.
Experts were able to identify that it was made from birch wood, and it measured just under 73 inches.
What they did point out, was that wood does often shrink when encased in ice, the shaft may have been wider all those years ago when it was first made. The impact of the ice was also visible in the shaft’s curvature.
This was probably because of the pressure that the spear had been put through, during the long time it had been cemented in the ice. From this, they could try and work out what is was used for.
After his magnanimous discovery, which he believed was not just dumb luck, he knew that he must continue on this quest, and made an effort to return back to the same spot several more times spanning over the course of a few years.
He documented his experiences along the way to Oslo archaeological museum. He wrote in these letters about other finds at the same place, Lendbreen ice patch, but to his dismay he never got a response from the museum.
A lot Of Questions Need Answering
The spear however, posed a lot of questions, more than could be answered. He wondered how it could have ended up there, trying to think of reasonable answers to this, that maybe it could have been from ice that melted, and trickling it along, or perhaps even a gust of wind. Yet experts had their own version.
Due to the weight of the spear, that would rule out the option that it was the wind or a breeze, plus the ice patch where it was found, wasn’t’ known for moving a lot so that wouldn’t explain it either.
Most Likely Explanation
The most likely explanation, was that a Viking would have lost it, near to where it was found, as it had been well preserved. The next question now, was what had it been its purpose? You see this area was used for two purposes, traveling and hunting, and a spear would have been necessary for both.
So was this individual that lost it, a hunter or a warrior? There was a spot near to the ice patch that had been used for hunting reindeer so that could have been a plausible use for it. However…
There is a puzzle piece missing in this theory, because Norwegian Vikings didn’t use spears to hunt reindeer, and an abundance of evidence proved that they used bows and arrows for hunting.
In this way, it seems that perhaps a warrior who was traveling on this very path, happened to have dropped the object, and that they had it as a means of protection against other warriors and not for hunting.
825 A.D. and 950 A.D.
With all the information collated about the spear, it is still not totally transparent as to why it was left there. Experts have dated the spearhead to a time between 825 A.D. and 950 A.D.
However, hopefully soon more evidence will be uncovered to really put the pieces of the puzzle together. Until then, more and more adventurers take their turns to go to that exact spot and search for more clues about the past.
Another remarkable object that was found was a Viking sword over 1,20 years old. Dating back to 750 AD, it was found in surprisingly good condition and was described as ‘quite extraordinary’.
“It’s quite unusual to find remnants from the Viking age that are so well-preserved … it might be used today if you sharpened the edge,” the county conservator told CNN. The weapon which of course was quite rusty, was hidden under rocks on the path.
The mountains which are covered with snow and frost will have helped preserve the condition of the sword, and it has been speculated that it was found along a path.
Perhaps from a burial site of sorts or it may have belonged to a traveler who had an accident or succumbed to the cold weather conditions on the pass. Similarly, to the bow, he could have been a hunter.
1,265 years old
The sword, which was discovered without a handle, measured over 30 inches long and was made from wrought iron which had rusted over. From the type of sword it was, archaeologists could calculate that it was approximately 1,265 years old, but can’t be sure of the exact date.
Swords like this were status symbols in Viking times because it cost a lot back then to extract iron, the historians that studied it, said that it’s likely this blade would have belonged to a wealthy Viking.
The piece of history has now been taken to the University Museum of Bergen for preservation work and a research expedition to the discovery site is planned, to learn more about the area, and to try and find more relics.
“We are really happy that this person found the sword and gave it to us,” said the conservationist. “It will shed light on our early history. It’s a very (important) example of the Viking age.”
“In the glaciated mountain passes, you can find basically anything,” Lars Pilø, co-director of a Glacier Archaeology Program states. “Obviously because of the fantastic artifacts there’s a lot of focus on the individual finds.
But I think what is more important, perhaps, is the bigger picture.” Researchers have now been able to learn so much from these recovered objects that have appeared over time, and it is continuing to cause excitement.
James Barrett of The University Of Cambridge has an explanation as to why a lot of these hunting items were found: “Remarkably, though, the finds from the ice may have continued through this period, perhaps suggesting that the importance of mountain hunting (mainly for reindeer) increased to supplement failing agricultural harvests in times of low temperatures.
Alternatively, any decline in high-elevation activity during the Late Antique Little Ice Age was so brief that we cannot observe it from the available evidence.”