Melting European Glaciers Yielding Artifacts Faster than Archaeologists Can Keep UpBreaking News
tags: climate change, archaeology, Alps, European history
FORCLE GLACIER, Switzerland — At around 8,000 feet above sea level, Switzerland’s Forcle Glacier has for thousands of years been deeply ensconced in a frigid mountain valley overlooked by some of Europe’s highest peaks.
To early human hunters who climbed these heights, it must have seemed as if its snow-covered body of ice would forever keep the valley locked in its frozen grip. Whatever was lost on these rocks — iron spears, leather shoes or rudimentary straps — was swallowed by the ice, never to reappear.
But when the Swiss archaeologist Romain Andenmatten arrived here on a recent September day, the ground was so muddy and moist that his shoes sank deep into it. On the ground in front of him lay a leather strap, rimmed with gleaming ice crystals, its holes filled with fine gravel.
The last time a human held it may have been over 1,000 years ago.
As climate change melts glaciers at unprecedented speeds, such ancient artifacts are emerging from the shrinking layers of ice around the world. For archaeologists, this is both a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and a daunting task as the planet’s rapid warming is exposing objects faster than they can be saved.
When the artifacts emerge from the ice after decades or centuries, many are so well preserved that they seem to have been frozen just hours earlier. European researchers recently grew plants from 100-year-old seeds that had been discovered “frozen in time” in a World War I-era bunker on the Swiss-Italian border. Some of the most scientifically valuable finds are organic, such as wood and leather, which would normally decompose without the ice.
comments powered by Disqus
- Why LAUSD Teachers Walked Out
- The Role of US Evangelicals in Radicalizing Ugandans Against LGBTQ Rights
- Culture Warrior Chris Rufo is DeSantis's Most Important Ally
- Vince McMahon's Control of Pro Wrestling's History Key to Controlling its Present
- SC Barbecue Restaurant With History of Civil Rights Rejection in News Again
- Florida Legislation Recalls the Tragic History behind Fights for Sex Education
- Kate Strasdin Breaks Down Authenticity on Bridgerton and other Costume Dramas
- Could the Infrastructure Bill End Drunk Driving?
- How "Christian" is Christian Nationalism?
- James Kloppenberg Reviews New Books on Democracy and Polarization