Climate change has discovered a huge amount of ancient arrows in Norway

By Chris Baraniuk

Old arrows emerge from Norway’s ice

Glacier Archeology Program, Inland County Council

An exceptional number of arrows dating from the Stone Age to the Middle Ages have melted from a single ice field in Norway in recent years due to climate change.

Researchers from the Universities of Cambridge, Oslo and Bergen collected a total of 68 arrow shafts, some with arrowheads still attached or near them, and many other artifacts. Almost all of the items were found on a mountain area of ​​no more than 18 hectares in Jotunheimen, a region in southern Norway.

The oldest arrows date from around 4100 BC. While the most recent are from AD 1300, based on radiocarbon analysis. However, the data is not evenly distributed over the millennia, raising questions about whether environmental conditions are more likely to keep fallen arrows at certain time periods than at other times. Peaks and valleys in reindeer hunting may also have played a role.


In some cases, arrowheads made from various materials have also been preserved, including bone, slate, iron, quartzite, and one made from clamshells. Some arrowheads even hold back the string and tar that were used to attach them to their wooden shaft.

With nearly 300 specimens of reindeer antlers and bones also secreted by the ice, and the fact that reindeer still visit the area, archaeologists are confident that the area has served as an important hunting ground for millennia.

Other artifacts from the site include a beautifully preserved 3,000-year-old shoe and textiles that archaeologists say may have been used to pack meat.

The finds represent a “treasure trove,” says William Taylor of the University of Colorado Boulder, who was not involved in the work. He notes that it is very unusual to find so many artifacts from melting ice in one place. “If you’re lucky, you can expect a handful of items,” he says. “It’s extremely rare and extremely important.”

As the ice that locked the artifacts away shifted and deformed over time, the arrows have moved away from where they originally fell. That makes it difficult to infer too much about the activities associated with them, says Lars Holger Pilø of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage of Innlandet County Council, Norway, who is one of the newspaper’s co-authors.

“The ice is an artifact keeper, but at the same time a destroyer of history,” he says.

Journal reference: The Holocene, DOI: 10.1177 / 0959683620972775

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