Melting Glacier Reveals Norwegian Mountain Pass That is a Treasure Trove for Archaeologists

Warming temperatures in Norway have caused a glacier located near the town of Lendbreen to melt away in recent years. However, as the ice has retreated, it isn’t just revealing rock and earth that has been covered for centuries.

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Underneath, researchers have discovered a mountain pass used for generations of Scandinavians, stretching from the Iron Age to Medieval times. That same path has become a treasure trove for archaeologists, revealing numerous artifacts left behind by ancient travelers.

A new research paper published yesterday indicates that the mountain pass is located along Lomseggen Ridge and appears to have been a frequently used road by locals in centuries passed. Wandering along the route, archaeologists have uncovered clothing—including a mitten and a shoe—snowshoes, and other items, including the remains of a dog still wearing its collar and leash, a walking stick adorned with runes, and a camping knife with a wooden handle.

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So far, hundreds of items have been discovered along the path, indicating that our ancient forefathers weren’t exactly adhering to the Leave No Trace principles as they accidentally and intentionally discarded items as they made the trek.

Originally discovered back in 2011, the mountain pass continues to open—and reveal new artifacts—as climate change impacts the region. So far, it is believed that the route was routinely used for more than 1200 years before expanding glaciers eventually closed it off and made it unsafe for travel.

However, increased temperatures are reopening the route, which has mostly been closed to all traffic other than historians and researchers. In ancient times, the pass was used to connect local communities and saw traffic from wandering merchants and long-distance travelers passing through the area.

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Measuring approximately 700 meters (2296 feet) in length, the trail itself wasn’t particularly long. However, it reached a height of 1920 meters (6299 feet), which would have been a fairly vigorous hike over the years.

Rocks stacked up to create cairns are also coming found along the pass, indicating that the route needed to be defined at various points. Those markers probably helped those who were passing through the region to remain safe and find their way.

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Many of those cairns are still standing, assisting the archaeologists in finding and sticking to the correct trail. The pelts of animals that have been found along the path are an indication that the pass was used as a trading route, possibly reaching far beyond Norway itself.

This is fascinating stuff, and it is interesting to see all of the things found along the route so far.

Kraig Becker