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6,000 years of arrows emerge from melting Norwegian ice patch

November 29, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Pardonmeforbreathing



From National Geographic:




Archaeologists in Norway have discovered dozens of arrows—some dating back 6,000 years—melting out of a 60-acre ice patch in the county’s high mountains.

Expeditions to survey the Langfonne ice patch in 2014 and 2016, both particularly warm summers, also revealed copious reindeer bones and antlers, suggesting that hunters used the ice patch over the course of millennia. Their hunting technique stayed the same even as the weapons they used evolved from stone and river shell arrowheads to iron points.

Now the research team is revealing the finds in a paper published today in the journal Holocene. A record-setting total of 68 complete and partial arrows (and five arrowheads) were ultimately discovered by the team on and around the melting ice patch–more than archaeologists have recovered from any other frozen site in the world. Some of the projectiles date to the Neolithic period while the most “recent” finds are from the 14th century A.D…

While the sheer number of historical projectiles is stunning, the Langfonne discoveries are also upending generally accepted ideas in the relatively new specialty of ice-patch archaeology, and yielding new clues as to ice’s potential to preserve or destroy evidence from the past over the course of thousands of years…

Unlike glaciers, which are essentially slow-moving frozen rivers, ice patches are fixed deposits of snow and ice that may grow and shrink over time. Sites like Langfonne, researchers assumed, resemble a patch of snow at the end of winter: As temperatures increase, artifacts trapped inside melt out in the order they were deposited.

“The idea was, ice is like a time machine. Anything that lands on it stays there and is protected,” Pilø says.

That meant the oldest items would be found in the deepest core of the ice patch, in the same way that archaeologists working with artifacts buried in soil assume lower layers of dirt contain older artifacts. And because the ice patches were thought to grow steadily with each winter’s snowfall, more recent finds would be closer to the edges of the patch.

If ice patches froze artifacts exactly where they were lost, archaeologists theorized, those items could help reconstruct what people did there in the past, how big the ice patches were at specific points in prehistory, and how fast they grew and shrank over time.

The Langfonne arrows seemed like a way to test the time-machine theory.

The arrows and reindeer bones confirmed earlier suspicions that Norway’s high mountain ice patches were reindeer-hunting hotspots: When the cold-loving creatures retreated to the ice to avoid biting insects during the summer months, people followed with bows, arrows, and hunting knives.

But after radiocarbon dating all the arrows and gathering dozens more dates from reindeer remains they found on the ice, the researchers realized that, at Langfonne at least, the time-machine theory was unreliable. Researchers expected that the oldest items would be trapped in place from the day they were lost and preserved just as well as artifacts buried in the ice in later centuries. But the oldest artifacts at Langfonne, which date back to the Neolithic, were fragmented and heavily weathered, as though they’d been churned by the ice or exposed to sun and wind for years.

Arrows from later periods, like the 1,500-year-old arrow that used a sharpened mussel shell harvested from a river at least 50 miles away, looked as though they were shot just yesterday. “That raises the suspicion something happened inside the ice” that exposed and re-froze the older items, Pilø says.

And the arrows didn’t seem to be emerging in any particular order, as you’d expect if the ice formed perfect layers over time. Arrows made thousands of years apart were lying not far from each other along the ice edge. “The idea that you find the oldest evidence when the ice patch is at its smallest—that isn’t really true,” says Montana State Parks archaeologist Rachel Reckin, who was not part of the research team. “It looks like gravity and water are moving artifacts down a great deal.”

Co-author Atle Nesje, a glaciologist at the University of Bergen, says that thousands of years ago, warm summers probably exposed older artifacts, which were carried to the edge of the ice patch by streams of meltwater before freezing again. The weight of ice pressing down on lower layers might have caused them to shift, carrying their frozen contents with them. Or lightweight wooden arrow shafts might have been blown across the surface by fierce winds before getting lodged in rocks or getting covered again by snow. Arrows lost in the snow more recently, meanwhile, might have stayed in place.

Because old arrows might be washed down by meltwater and then re-freeze, the spot where they were found could be a long way from where they originally landed. That meant using radiocarbon dated arrows to map the size of the ice patch in the past was a dead end. “Glaciologists and ice patch archaeologists were hoping that artifacts could give us an idea of the size over time, but that’s not the case,” Reckin says.


The evidence points clearly to the fact that there is nothing unprecedented about the current climate in Norway, and that this ice patch has melted and refrozen many times in the past.

    • dave permalink
      November 30, 2020 9:23 am

      I am not sure why you are linking to an article from eleven years ago. It does remind us of Pachauri, however.

      Pachauri died in February of this year – before a trial date for the sexual harassment charges was set. Quelle surprise!

  1. November 29, 2020 12:31 pm

    Do you mean to tell me that there were warmer periods than the blistering one we are now experiencing? But the “scientists” said…….. Someone tell Michael Mann so he can sue the archaeologists. This is a travesty of Michael’s “truth”.

    • November 29, 2020 2:30 pm

      Thank you for making me smile on this grey grey day! 🙂

      • November 29, 2020 3:15 pm

        It’s obvious how it got there. It must have been placed there recently by a climate denier.

      • Mack permalink
        November 29, 2020 4:36 pm

        Is that a confession Phillip? You weren’t the pesky pesky climate denier that managed to bury those 2 WW2 B17s and 6 accompanying fighters that crash landed in Greenland during the war and were later found in the 1980s under 260 feet of ice, were you? If so, I think you deserve a drink!

      • Duker permalink
        November 30, 2020 4:07 am

        Not one , but 68 artifacts.
        ” 68 complete and partial arrows (and five arrowheads) were ultimately discovered by the team on and around the melting ice patch–more than archaeologists have recovered from any other frozen site in the world”
        hard time finding a single genuine artifact let alone that many some from 4000 yrs back

      • November 30, 2020 11:52 am

        You are so welcome. On my way to a PhD in botany (plant ecosystems), I had enough paleobotany and geology to know that the current climate hysteria is total hogwash. The biological community in the United States has pretty much been wiped clean of independent though or inquiry.

  2. Broadlands permalink
    November 29, 2020 1:56 pm

    It seems to be illogical to want to believe that if ancient human artifacts buried in ice are exposed by “unprecedented anthropogenic” warming, then it must be warmer now than then and humans today are the reason so we must act soon to prevent it from getting worse. Hide the decline and the hiatus?

    • November 29, 2020 8:57 pm

      Countryfile this evening was all about tackling climate change by planting millions of trees (no mention of 14 million trees being chopped down in Scotland to combat climate change though). John Craven said that the 3 recent decades were warmer than any period in the last 1,400years, but it didn’t occur to him (well he is a bit thick) why it was warmer more than 1,400 years ago, ie before we had climate change and the climate crisis.

      • saighdear permalink
        November 30, 2020 8:51 am

        Oh I’ve given up on the bbc and their farming programs-turned-rural-green-peter-playgrounds. They have an agenda unlike real world farming.I’ve been around long enough and listened to the elders telling us what the weather was like ‘wen i was a lad’ Nothing has changed, only that the Seasons wobble about – and now it ALWAYS rains at the weekend!

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        November 30, 2020 1:39 pm

        I switched straight over to Film 4 when CountryFile came on this evening. The opening sentences included the phrase “Climate Crisis”. So the BBC has dropped all pretense and now adopts the language of Greenpeace and other activists.

        Actually Film 4 had a movie starring Owen Wilson in a Top Gun role – rather a surprising choice for him. He did look quite young.

  3. November 29, 2020 2:34 pm

    I know the NatGeo is just another “bought” rag re climate hysteria but I found myself shouting out loud reading the piece “Ask the question! Ask the question!” They completely avoid the obvious conclusions to be drawn from this ( How is that possible when ClimateHysteria is everywhere) YET still manage to get a quote of the melt being “Scary” three paras from the end which I suppose is the take home for the upper echelons of the chattering classes who will be the readership.

    • saighdear permalink
      November 30, 2020 8:54 am

      Over twenty years ago I was an ardent reader-cum-subscriber and for our chhildren’s sake, but then things changed ( Before readily available internet ) I wrote them regarding cancelling subby but no response: I’ve never turned a page since since.

  4. November 29, 2020 3:42 pm

    Search for ‘glacier size’ in this report to see an interesting graphic of the Jotunheimen glacier curve over the last few thousand years. Advances and retreats are obvious.

    The last 1300 years or so were mainly big (compared to the earlier millennia) advances, with short spells of retreat.

  5. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    November 29, 2020 5:12 pm

    A nice article here, with maps and photos:

    Makes me wonder what folks were doing in that location. Perhaps a group reconnoitering for a larger coastal society? Did Sognefjord play a role? How?
    _ _ _ _ _ _ _
    After years of subscribing to NatGeo, we dropped out about 10 years ago. Recently 21st Century Fox became majority owner (2015; 73%), followed in 2017/19 by Disney.
    All new and improved, I suppose. Still not interested.

    • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
      November 29, 2020 5:13 pm

      Same link as oldbrew. Sorry. Searched and posted before reading.

  6. MikeHig permalink
    November 29, 2020 6:44 pm

    Phillip Bratby: don’t forget Slartibartfast’s work on behalf of the mice!
    (Apologies if you are not a Douglass Adams fan).

    • November 29, 2020 8:52 pm

      Definitely a Douglas Adams fan. That is why I think all climate “scientists” and econuts should be put on Arc Feet Ship B.

  7. Adam Gallon permalink
    November 29, 2020 7:24 pm

    The weathering & fragmenting of the older articles, would suggest they’ve been through multiple melt-out/refreeze & burial cycles to me.

  8. Adam Gallon permalink
    November 30, 2020 8:14 am

    Interesting how this is repeated ” Little Ice Age (AD 1450-1920)”
    An ending for the LIA in the 20th Century.

  9. ThinkingScientist permalink
    November 30, 2020 2:03 pm

    Glacier and Sea Level data both clearly support the modern warming commencing around 1850. The little ice age clearly finished around 1850. This is in contradiction with (a) the IPCC CMIP5 & 6 forcings and (b) Hadcrut4 temperature, both of which commence warming around 1910.

    The European Alps had far less glaciation during Roman Times.

    Svensmark/Calders book cites examples of Roman and Bronze Age artefacts being found on alpine passes that were ice bound in summer until recently.

    Examples of 3000 year old trees emerging from under glaciers in Iceland, discussed quite recently.

    Joerin reported the same with regard to medieval and older trees in the Alps being revealed as Swiss glaciers retreat.

    Unprecedented warming? Only if you start from 1910 and even then only for adjusted temperature data. I think the glacier and tree evidence is probably the strongest line of argument to attack AGW. Man-made artefacts and trees are hard evidence and can be subjected to reliable dating techniques. How did they turn up under what was permanent ice until recently, unless there were similar warm periods before? And if there were similar warm periods, how is the current period “unprecedented”.

    People writing these articles seem to suffer from some bizarre cognitive dissonance. I saw the same today on the BBC – they showed the graph of R for covid coming down and talked about the impact of the lockdown. They seem blind to reading the graph which shows the R peaked about 2 weeks before the lockdown was imposed (and evidence for this was actually in the 31 October Science Briefing).

    Some of us actually can read and interpret graphs while people are speaking and can call BS almost immediately. For others such as those at the BBC, graphs are just some kind of abstract picture to accompany the words, and they don’t even notice if the words and the graph don’t agree.

    • Nordisch geo-climber permalink
      November 30, 2020 7:08 pm

      Spot on analysis!!

  10. bobn permalink
    November 30, 2020 3:52 pm

    Looking at their discovery site map it appears todays thawing uncovers medieval era artifacts indicating we are achieving medieval temps, but older BC artifacts are only starting to emerge as we are yet to be as warm as the BC periods.

  11. November 30, 2020 9:35 pm

    I found a flint arrow head in my garden soil , it was a fascinating thing to look at. Still sharp and useable if I knew how.

    However not sure how it got there as I am sure the soil has been disturbed and added to for many centuries.

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