Glaciers across the globe have been shrinking due to climate change, with Norwegian giant glaciers, including Jostedalsbreen and Folgefonna, retreating by an average of 33 metres in the course of 2018 alone, according to the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).
Weapons dating back more than a millennium, including ancient reindeer hunters’ arrows, have been found on a remote mountain by a team of glacial archaeologists in Norway.
Three of the five arrows, discovered during a survey of part of the inland mountain peak, Sandgrovskaret, are estimated to be up to 1,700 years old.
Another fascinating find is 40 stone hunting blinds, which the hunters used to become “invisible” to nearby reindeer.
“When the reindeer had approached to within 10-20 meters [33 to 66 feet], the hunter would get up and start shooting arrows,” said Lars Pilø, archaeologist at the Department of Cultural Heritage, Innlandet County Council, Norway.
Pilo, who is also co-director of the Glacier Archaeology Program and editor of the Secrets of the Ice website, has been searching for artifacts exposed by melting glaciers. The site in question was actually discovered in 2013. However, an in-depth survey was only carried out in 2018.
“There is a lot of melting going on due to climate change, and we had to prioritize other sites in the short time window for glacial archaeological fieldwork,” explained Lars Pilø.
Three of the five arrows have preserved iron arrowheads. It was the analysis of their shapes that allowed the experts to date them at between A.D. 300 and 600. The other two arrows are believed to date to the first millennium B.C.
Furthermore, one of the three iron arrowheads is “a rare type not found at the ice before and hardly in graves in the lowlands,” Pilø was cited as saying in an email for Live Science.
The Secrets of the Ice website announced the findings on their Facebook page on 19 February. They immediately got “quite a lot of comments that it had to be a spearhead, but the arrow shaft was found beside it, so it is an arrow,” added the archaeologist.
The discovery has helped the scientists piece together a likely scene from those ancient times.
Reindeer hunters armed with the weapons most probably hid in the nearby blinds.
“The reindeer are very wary of movement, so the hunters had to make themselves invisible to get within shooting distance,” stated the Facebook post.
As the arrows most likely were ably to fly some 66 feet (20 m) or so, “hunters needed a good place to hide. And if there wasn’t one, they built one themselves.”
As for where the hunters lived, it is speculated they might have lived down in the valleys.
The archeological team also found 77 pieces of reindeer antler and bone and 32 so-called “scaring sticks,” dating to between A.D. 200 and 1000, during the Iron Age.
These sticks would be stuck in the ground to guide reindeer toward the archers, stated the team.
The group of scientists added they intended to push ahead with a survey of the nearby mountains, aware that with the melting ice, time was running out.
The discovery comes as glaciers are shrinking across all of Norway, with the largest decrease found in Nordland in Northern Norway.
Analysis showed that 186 square kilometres of glacier had been lost there, according to a press statement by glacial researcher Liss M. Andreassen from the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE).