Home Science Archaeology news: Melting glaciers unearth ‘fascinating finds’

Archaeology news: Melting glaciers unearth ‘fascinating finds’

A vast new array of archaeological sites are being uncovered in mountainous areas due to ever-accelerating man-made climate change. Extraordinary archaeological troves are beginning to emerge in recent years from glacier ice rapidly melting, triggering a new specialist area of research dubbed glacier archaeology.



As the mercury continues to rise, glaciologists now suggest as many as 95 percent of the some 4,000 glaciers dotted throughout Alpine areas could vanish by the end of this century.

We are making very fascinating finds that open up a window into a part of archaeology that we don’t normally get

Archaeologist Marcel Cornelissen

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Archaeologist Marcel Cornelissen is among researchers who have acknowledged this natural disaster has created “an opportunity” to dramatically expand understanding of mountain life millennia ago.

He said: ”We are making very fascinating finds that open up a window into a part of archaeology that we don’t normally get.”

It was until recently thought, for example, prehistoric people avoided climbing intimidating mountains.

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Archaeology news: Melting glaciers are unearthing ‘fascinating finds’ (Image: Getty)

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However, a number of startling finds have since been yielded from melting glaciers, revealing mountain ranges such Europe’s Alps have actually bustled with human activity for millennia.

Our ancient ancestors are now known to have trekked into the mountains to travel, hunt or move livestock to new pastures.

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Christian auf der Maur, an archaeologist with Uri Canton recently discovered traces of an ancient hunt for crystals, a find he described as “truly exceptional”.

He said: ”We know now that people were hiking up to the mountains to up to 3,000m altitude, looking for crystals and other primary materials.”

Archaeology news: A 17th century shoe (Image: NC)

The first major archaeological Alpine find to emerge from the melting glaciers was the 1991 discovery of a 5,300-year-old warrior dubbed Oetzi.

His body had been discovered well preserved inside the mountainous Italian Tyrol region.

Archaeologists’ suspicions he was a rare example of a prehistoric human climbing into the Alps have been ruled-out, as now-numerous ancient traces of people crossing high altitude passes has ben detected.

One of the most productive sites is the Schnidejoch pass in the Bernese Alps 2,756m (9,000ft) above sea level.

Finds include a birch bark quiver – a case for arrows, believed to date back to 3,000 BC

Leather trousers and shoes has since been were also discovered, in addition to hundreds of other objects, some as old as 4,500 BC

Regula Gubler, also an archaeologist, said in a statement: “It is exciting because we find stuff that we don’t normally find in excavations.”

These include organic materials such as leather, wood, birch bark and textiles, which usually rapidly erode, but can last far longer when trapped in ice.

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Archaeology news: Extraordinary archaeological troves are beginning to emerge in recent years from melting glacier ice (Image: Express)

Only last month, she led a team to unearth a fresh finding in the Bernese Alps – a knotted string or plant fibres thought to be more than 6,000 years old.

The discovery resembles the fragile remains of a braided basket from the same period, unearthed last year.

However, while global warming has made such extraordinary finds possible, it is also a threat.

This is because if these finds are not found quickly, the ancient organic materials freed from ice are rapidly destroyed.


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