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Archaeologists the unlikely beneficiaries of global warming

posted 14 Sep 2010, 09:16 by Mpelembe Admin   [ updated 14 Sep 2010, 09:19 ]

Climate change in northern Europe is exposing hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors faster than archaeologists can collect it. According to climate experts, thawing ice in Norway's highest mountains is just one example of a wider trend that sees glaciers around the world in retreat.

JUVFONNA, NORWAY - More than 1800 m above sea level, near Norway's tallest mountain, man-made climate change is melting the ice.

In a strange twist of fate, archaeologists are reaping the benefits as ancient artifacts long-locked in the ice are revealed.

Among them, this scare stick - used to drive reindeer towards viking archers 1500 years ago, says team leader Lars Piloe.

DANISH SCIENTIST AND TEAM LEADER LARS PILOE SAYING:

"Well they used the natural behavior of the reindeer to guide them down to where the hunters were hidden."

Freed from the ancient freeze the treasure trove can rot within days so what should be a painstaking academic study is in fact a race against time.

 DANISH SCIENTIST AND TEAM LEADER LARS PILOE SAYING:

"Our main focus now is the rescue part - to rescue the artifacts before they're gone."

An ice cave has been dug to demonstrate how the artifacts may have looked trapped in their frozen graves -- a leather shoe 3,400 years old, a perfectly preserved arrow complete with feather -- even a smell straight from the dark ages as the team released ancient reindeer droppings, according to glaciologist, Rune Strand Oedegaard.

RUNE STRAND OEDEGAARD, GLACIER AND PERMAFROST EXPERT AT GJOEVIK UNIVERSITY COLLEGE SAYING:

"When we made the tunnel this spring, we had lots of problems actually with the smell in the tunnel. So this is fresh, really fresh not really nice smell."

The front edge of the ice patch has retreated 18 metres in the last year and so much is thawing the team cannot search all the newly exposed ground.

DANISH SCIENTIST AND TEAM LEADER LARS PILOE SAYING:

"There are many ice patches with finds but we can only cover a few of those so we know we're losing artifacts every year."

Most international climate experts say the retreat of glaciers from the Andes to the Alps is a side-effect of man-made global warming -- a modern environmental disaster now teaching us about our past.

Stuart McDill, Reuters

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