Climate Clues From Out of The Freezer
A perfect example is provided at Juvfonna in Norway, where reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors has been found littering the ground as the front edge of Juvfonna's ice sheet has retreated. A section more than 60ft wide has disappeared over the course of 12 months, exposing several hundred artefacts. "It's like a time machine... the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries," says Lars Piloe, the Dane heading a team of "snow patch archaeologists".
Bows and arrows, specialised hunting sticks – used to drive reindeer towards archers – and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been found at the site in the Jotunheimen mountains, home of the "ice giants" of Norse mythology. These finds have been logged with a GPS satellite marker before being taken for examination. From these measurements, archaeologists reckon people using hunting sticks – each about a metre long with a flapping piece of wood attached by connecting thread – were set up about two metres apart. They then drove reindeer toward hunters who needed to get within 60ft of an animal to have a chance of hitting one with an iron-tipped arrow.
Such a hunt would require 15 to 20 people, Piloe adds, indicating that Norway had an organised society around the start of the dark ages, 1,500 years ago.
And where was the ice then? And why?