68 arrows were found during a multi-year archeological study of Norway’s Langfonne ice patch. This record-breaking find comprises the largest amount of arrows ever found on any single frozen site.
Behind the groundbreaking discovery are archeologists from Secrets of the Ice (SOTI). To learn more about their fascinating endeavors, see our two-part article series which dives into the life and work of an ice archeologist here and here.
The site of the find and focus of the study is the 60-acre-spanning Langfonne ice patch, nestled within the Jotunheimen Mountains of central Norway’s Innlandet County.
Dr. Lars Holger Pilø, a pioneer of the glacial archeology field, gives more details on the ice patch:
“Langfonne is a fantastic archaeological site, situated in a harsh and beautiful mountain landscape. Reindeer still roam the ice and snow here like they did back in the Stone Age.
“With the ice now retreating due to climate change, the evidence for ancient hunting at Langfonne is reappearing from what is, in essence, a frozen archive. The ice melt, sad as it is, provides an unprecedented archaeological opportunity for new knowledge.”
And provided the ice patch certainly has: in addition to the 68 arrows, 290 finds of faunal material (mostly reindeer bones and antlers), were recovered.
102 of the total finds have been radiocarbon dated – including almost all of the arrows.
The oldest date as far back as BC 4000 and the youngest extend through the Viking Age.
“Periods with the highest number of arrows were times with very few reindeer finds. The period of maximum arrow finds, between c. AD 540-1160, yielded only two antlers, both of which had cut marks from harvesting by humans.
“This is surely not a coincidence. It would seem that peaks in arrow finds preserve evidence of increased hunting despite changing preservation conditions through time”, states James H. Barrett, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge and co-author of the study.
But what causes variabilities in preservation and amounts? Is it human activity or natural processes?
“Glacial archaeology has the potential to transform our understanding of human activity”
Dr. Pilø explains that either factor can influence ice finds, saying,“Ice patches are not your regular archaeological sites. They are situated in the high mountains in a cold and hostile environment.
“What happens to the finds once they are lost in the snow? In what ways do ice movement, meltwater, wind, and exposure affect the finds? Is the impact of nature so massive that we cannot get historical information beyond what we can learn from the individual finds, say an arrow?
“This is a crucial, yet unsolved question in the new field of glacial archaeology”. Dr. Pilø adds, “Glacial archaeology has the potential to transform our understanding of human activity in the high mountains and beyond.
“However, in each case, we have to carefully consider how natural processes may have altered the archaeological record. Without such analysis, we may mistake patterns in the record produced by natural processes with traces from human activities.”
Record-breaking finds from the Langfonne ice patch, in photos
The Langfonne research team in action!
Photos and photo information courtesy of Secrets of the Ice.