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Melting Glaciers Reveal Lost Viking-Era 'Highway' and 1,800-Year-Old Artifacts

This mountain pass was used by travelers for 1,000 years, then abandoned during the Black Death.

The world as we know it is melting, and uncovering hidden treasures that were away from our sights for hundreds of years. Recently, retreating ice in Norway, which is melting because of climate change, revealed a lost Viking-era mountain pass with scattered artifacts - and it all started with a 1,800-year-old shirt. 

Originally, the pass at Lendbreen in Norway's mountains attracted the attention of local archaeologists in 2011 upon discovery of a woolen tunic that belonged to the third or fourth century AD.

Unfortunately, the ice has melted significantly since then, now revealing numerous artifacts including knitted mittens, leather shoes, and arrows with their feathers attached, dating back nearly 2,000 years, National Geographic reports.

SEE ALSO: ALPINE GLACIER REVEALS INSIGHT INTO MURDER OF THOMAS BECKET IN 1170

Mountain pass fell out of use after the Black Death

The found artifacts paint a picture of a well-used mountain pass, roamed by travelers for more than 1,000 years, and then, abandoned about 500 years ago.

Melting Glaciers Reveal Lost Viking-Era 'Highway' and 1,800-Year-Old Artifacts
Packhorse skull, radiocarbon-dated to 1700 AD, making it the earliest-dated find from the pass, Source: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice

Researchers found that mountain pass fell out of use because of worsening weather and economic changes after the Black Death run its course in the medieval period.

Melting Glaciers Reveal Lost Viking-Era 'Highway' and 1,800-Year-Old Artifacts
Snowshoe, not yet radiocarbon-dated, Source: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice

1,000 artifacts scattered among the pass

Archeologists found nearly 1,000 artifacts that belong to anywhere between 300 and 1500 AD. 

Melting Glaciers Reveal Lost Viking-Era 'Highway' and 1,800-Year-Old Artifacts
Shoe, radiocarbon-dated to the 11th century AD, Source: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice

Upon finding the items, the researchers used carbon dating to pinpoint when each finding is from. They found that the majority of the items belong to the Viking-era in 1000 AD, where trade in the region was at its highest.

Melting Glaciers Reveal Lost Viking-Era 'Highway' and 1,800-Year-Old Artifacts
Well-preserved piece of textile, radiocarbon dated to the 10th century AD, Source: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice

The archeologists examined the area and found horse snowshoes, remains of packhorses and their dung piles, a walking stick with a runic inscription, a knife, a wood distaff used to hold wool during hand-spinning, and parts of sleds.

Melting Glaciers Reveal Lost Viking-Era 'Highway' and 1,800-Year-Old Artifacts
A wooden bit for a goat kid or lamb, meant to stop them from suckling their mother, radiocarbon-dated to the 11th century AD, Source: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice

Moreover, they also dug up shoes, knitted mittens, and numerous remains of clothing. This video shows the moment the Viking Age mitten was found.

Some items couldn't be classified since they didn't have modern equivalents.

Melting Glaciers Reveal Lost Viking-Era 'Highway' and 1,800-Year-Old Artifacts
A small and worn knife, radiocarbon-dated to the 11th century AD, Source: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice

Their findings are truly stunning, and some of them look almost like they were left there a short time ago instead of centuries.

Amid climate change, archaeology is booming

While this discovery comes as a dream-come-true for archaeologists, it is also a poignant and evocative reminder of climate change.

Lars Pilø, who leads the Glacier Archaeology Program in Oppland, Norway, says, "Global warming is leading to the melting of mountain ice worldwide, and the finds melting out of the ice are a result of this. Trying to save the remains of a melting world is a very exciting job — the finds are just an archaeologist's dream — but at the same time, it is also a job you cannot do without a deep sense of foreboding"

According to the researchers, the amount of ice melted in Lendbreen in 2019 show that there will soon be nothing left to discover there.

The team’s discoveries are published in the journal Antiquity.

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