Trove of artifacts dating back 9,500 years is uncovered in Alpine glaciers as climate change causes ice to melt
- Climate change is melting Alpine glaciers and revealing hidden treasures
- Experts have found items dating back as far as 9,500 years ago
- They have uncovered ancient ropes, shoes and a 2,000 year old wooden doll
- The ice was keeping the items preserved and with the glaciers melting, the artifacts could be destroyed by erosion
Climate change is creating valuable archaeological sites in the Alpine mountains by melting glaciers and revealing wonders that would have otherwise lay hidden in the ice.
Teams recently uncovered a knotted string of plant fibers some 6,000 years old, an ancient wooden figurine, laced shoes with remains of a prehistoric man dating back to 2,800 BC, along with other lost treasures across the areas.
Although a warming world is revealing these extraordinary relics, archaeologists are in a race against time because the ice is what is keeping them preserved.
Archaeologist Regula Gubler told AFP: ‘It is a very short window in time. In 20 years, these finds will be gone and these ice patches will be gone.’
‘It is a bit stressful.’
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Teams recently uncovered a knotted string of plant fibers some 6,000 years old, an ancient wooden figurine,(pictured) laced shoes with remains of a prehistoric man dating back to 2,800 BC, along with other lost treasures across the areas
She explained that materials like leather, wood, birch bark and textiles can be destroyed by erosion.
And the only reason they have stayed preserved is because of the ice.
The melting glaciers are creating an array of archaeology sites, so many that a new field of research has emerged – glacier archaeology.
While archaeologists are aware of the devastating toll of climate change, many acknowledge it has created ‘an opportunity’ to dramatically expand understanding of mountain life millennia ago.
A team found a knotted string of bast fibers last month in Schnidejoch pass in the Alps, which is believed to be over 6,000 years old
A pair of leather trousers and shoes (pictured) were later found, along with hundreds of other artifacts dating as far back as 4500BC
And Marcel Cornelissen is one expert taking advantage of the situation.
He led an excavation trip last month to the remote crystal site near the Brunifirm glacier in the eastern Swiss canton of Uri.
‘We are making very fascinating finds that open up a window into a part of archaeology that we don’t normally get,’ Cornelissen said.
It was long believed that prehistoric people did not brave towering mountains, but a number of recent finds reveals just the opposite.
Gubler and her team found a knotted string of bast fibers last month in Schnidejoch pass in the Alps, which is believed to be over 6,000 years old.
In 2003, a team excavating the same area at an altitude of 9,000 feet above sea level uncovered a case for arrows dating back to 3000 BC.
A pair of leather trousers and shoes were later found, along with hundreds of other artifacts dating as far back as 4500BC.
Christian auf der Maur, an archaeologist with Uri canton, said the find there was ‘truly exceptional’.
‘We know now that people were hiking up to the mountains to up to 3,000 meters altitude, looking for crystals and other primary materials.’
One of the most famous discovers in the Alpine was ‘Otiz’ in 1991, which was the preserved body of a 5,300-year-old warrior found in the Italian Tyrol region.
Theories that he may have been a rare example of a prehistoric human venturing into the Alps have been belied by findings since of numerous ancient traces of people crossing high altitude mountain passes.
One of the most famous discovers in the Alpine was ‘Otiz’ (pictured) in 1991, which was the preserved body of a 5,300-year-old warrior found in the Italian Tyrol region
Cornelissen agreed, saying the understanding of glacier sites’ archaeological potential had likely come ‘too late’.
‘The retreat of the glaciers and melting of the ice fields has already progressed so far,’ he said. ‘I don’t think we’ll find another Oetzi.’
Due to the extremely cold temperatures, archaeologists rely on hikers braving the wilderness to alert them to finds.
But not every discovery is turned in.
In 1999, Italian hikers found a wood carving on the Arolla glacier in southern Wallis canton and instead of alerting experts, they hung it on their living room wall.
In 1999, Italian hikers found a wood carving on the Arolla glacier in southern Wallis canton and instead of alerting experts, they hung it on their living room wall
It was only recovered last year by archaeologists who dated it to be over 2,000 years old.
Pierre Yves Nicod, an archaeologist with the Wallis historical museum in Sion, said it is unknown ‘how many such objects have been picked up throughout the Alps in the past 30 years and are currently hanging on living room walls.’
‘We need to urgently sensibilize populations likely to come across such artifacts.’
‘It is an archaeological emergency.’
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