6,000 years of arrows emerge from melting Norwegian ice patch

The record-setting discovery of 68 projectiles from the Neolithic to the Viking Era also upends ideas on how ice both preserves and destroys archaeological finds.


A researcher examines a wooden arrow shaft that emerged from the Langfonne ice patch in Norway. Radiocarbon dating is used to determine the age of many objects once trapped within the now-melting ice.

Archaeologists in Norway have discovered dozens of arrows—some dating back 6,000 years—melting out of a 60-acre ice patch in the county’s high mountains.

Expeditions to survey the Langfonne ice patch in 2014 and 2016, both particularly warm summers, also revealed copious reindeer bones and antlers, suggesting that hunters used the ice patch over the course of millennia. Their hunting technique stayed the same even as the weapons they used evolved from stone and river shell arrowheads to iron points.

Now the research team is revealing the finds in a paper published today in the journal Holocene. A record-setting total of 68 complete and partial arrows (and five arrowheads) were ultimately discovered by the team on and around the melting ice patch–more than archaeologists have recovered from any other frozen site in the world. Some of the projectiles date to the Neolithic period while the most “recent” finds are from the 14th century A.D.

While the sheer number of historical projectiles is stunning, the Langfonne discoveries are also upending generally accepted ideas in the relatively new specialty of ice-patch archaeology, and...

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