Home of "Ice Giants" thaws, shows pre-Viking hunts

Tue Sep 14, 2010 9:48am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

JUVFONNA, Norway (Reuters) - Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe's highest mountains.

"It's like a time machine...the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries," said Lars Piloe, a Danish scientist heading a team of "snow patch archaeologists" on newly bare ground 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea level in mid-Norway.

Specialized hunting sticks, bows and arrows and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been among finds since 2006 from a melt in the Jotunheimen mountains, the home of the "Ice Giants" of Norse mythology.

As water streams off the Juvfonna ice field, Piloe and two other archaeologists -- working in a science opening up due to climate change -- collect "scare sticks" they reckon were set up 1,500 years ago in rows to drive reindeer toward archers.

But time is short as the Ice Giants' stronghold shrinks.

"Our main focus is the rescue part," Piloe said on newly exposed rocks by the ice. "There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few...We know we are losing artefacts everywhere."

Freed from an ancient freeze, wood rots in a few years. And rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather crumble to dust in days unless taken to a laboratory and stored in a freezer.

Jotunheimen is unusual because so many finds are turning up at the same time -- 600 artefacts at Juvfonna alone.   Continued...

 
<p>The Juvfonna ice field at 1,850 metres (6070 feet) above sea level is seen in the Jotunheimen mountains in Norway September 9, 2010. Climate change is exposing reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it from ice thawing in northern Europe's highest mountains. REUTERS/Alister Doyle</p>