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Archaeology & History

Lost viking mountain pass reveals its secrets

By T.K. Randall
April 16, 2020 · Comment icon 5 comments

Norway's Jotunheimen National Park. Image Credit: trondmyhre4 / Pixabay
Melting ice in Norway has revealed a long-lost Viking-era mountain pass brimming with archaeological discoveries.
The pass, which has been slowly uncovered thanks to rising global temperatures, is situated at the Lendbreen ice patch in Norway's central mountains to the northwest of Oslo.

Described as a 'dream discovery', the pass dates back around 1,800 years to the Nordic iron age and was used for centuries by farmers and travelers making their way through the mountains.

"It probably served as both an artery for long-distance travel and for local travel between permanent farms in the valleys to summer farms higher in the mountains, where livestock grazed for part of the year," said study co-author and archaeologist James Barrett from the University of Cambridge.

Due to the number of people who made their way through the pass, the area is littered with hundreds of artefacts dropped and later claimed by the ice over an extensive period of time.
These items, which date from the Roman Iron Age to the medieval period, include snow shoes, a woollen tunic, a knife, wooden skis, arrows, horseshoes, horse bones and a broken walking stick adorned with an inscription that reads "Owned by Joar."

In total, more than 800 items have so far been retrieved from the site.

Despite its popularity however, the pass saw less and less use from around the 14th Century, possibly due to the Black Death - a pandemic that killed millions of people all across the world.

"The pandemics inflicted a heavy toll on the local population," said archaeologist Lars Pilo, co-director of the Secrets of the Ice Glacier Archaeology Program. "And when the area eventually recovered, things had changed. The Lendbreen pass went out of use and was forgotten."

Source: Scientific American | Comments (5)

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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Cookie Monster 4 years ago
I liked the bit about how they thought the wearer of the tunic had hypothermia. In the later stages people feel incredibly hot (making them undress) and get the urge to find somewhere to hide. Its the body preparing for hibernation but with the exception of Australian Aborigines most of us have lost our evolutionary edge with hibernation so it kills us. An interesting find, maybe it was an outlaw hiding in the mountains.
Comment icon #2 Posted by DieChecker 4 years ago
I was just reading about this. I was wondering if the area was mostly ice free in the 4th century to 10th century, and later iced over much more. There had to be some permanent ice since objects dating to the 4th century have been preserved.
Comment icon #3 Posted by Seti42 4 years ago
This is really cool. I like reading about everyday item finds in archaeology almost more than grand temples, elaborate burials for the wealthy, etc.
Comment icon #4 Posted by mdbuilder 4 years ago
I hope everyone grasps the implications relative to the hype over 'global warming'.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Myles 4 years ago
One of the few positives of global warming.  

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