Melting glaciers in the high mountains of southern Norway are revealing some treasures from the country’s past. Archaeologists working for Oppland County have reported the discovery, for example, of a ski believed to be 1,300 years old, complete with its binding.
The wooden ski was among items found in a glacier in what’s now Reinheimen National Park in the mountains of Lesja in Oppland last summer. Historians have long known that Norwegians were skiing more than a thousand years ago, and now they have the proof.
“This is very exciting,” said Lars Holger Pilø, one of the archaeologists on assignment for Oppland County. He and his colleagues submitted the ski for carbon dating along with several other items found during their explorations in Reinheimen, Jotunheimen and Breheimen.
The ski measures 172 centimeters long and 14.5 centimeters wide. The binding with intact leather was mounted on a raised portion in the middle of the ski, and archaeologists could see a hole where the binding would be fastened.
“This is a unique discovery of an exceptionally well-preserved ski,” said Pilø’s colleague Espen Finstad. He said it ranks as one of the oldest in the world, second only to one found in Finland that’s believed to be about 1,500 years old.
Among other items emerging from melting ice were around 60 shafts of arrows, one of which tested to be nearly 6,000 years old.
Oppland, a vast county in south-central Norway, has distinguished itself as a veritable treasure chest of items dating back to Viking times and the Bronze Age. Among them have been a 3,400-year-old shoe from the late Bronze Age and a mitten from the Viking age. The most common items, though, are arrows and wooden stakes used to herd reindeer.
The archaeologists described the ice in Norway and elsewhere in the world as a “gigantic freezer from our past.” As more ice melts because of climate change, the items found are older and older.
“At an elevation of 1,900 meters, we found a runepinne (a wooden slate carved with runic characters) at the border between Lom and Sjåk,” Pilø said. He and his colleagues found a total of 390 objects this summer, one of the warmest ever in Norway and blamed for accelerating the ice melt.
“We have never discovered such old items in the ice of Oppland,” Pilø said. Nor had they found a runepinne at such a high altitude. Experts were still trying to decipher its message.