Archaeologists Discover a 1,300-Year-Old Wooden Ski in Norwegian Ice

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Archaeologists discovered a single wooden ski frozen in ice on Digervarden Mountain in southern Norway in 2014. According to Andrew Curry of Science magazine, researchers have discovered the other half of the 1,300-year-old pair, which are among the best-preserved antique skis ever discovered.

The newly recovered ski is in better shape than the one discovered seven years ago. This might be due to it being buried deeper in the ice, argues Lars Pil, an archaeologist with Norway’s Glacier Archaeology Program (GAP), on the organization’s blog.

The second ski is significantly bigger than the first, measuring roughly 74 inches long and 7 inches broad. Both have elevated footholds. Leather straps and twisted birch bark bindings discovered with the skis would have been fastened via footing holes. The new ski has evidence of significant wear and will require maintenance in the future.

“The skis aren’t exactly the same, but we shouldn’t expect them to be,” Pil says. “The skis are handcrafted rather than mass-produced.” Before an Iron Age skier used them together and they wound up under the ice, they had a lengthy and individual history of wear and repair.”

Archaeologists are uncovering more evidence of ancient life in cold northern areas, including portions of Norway, as glacier melting rises due to climate change. According to Daniel Burgess for Columbia Climate School’s GlacierHub blog, GAP has discovered several relics attesting to links between Viking-era people of southern Norway’s highlands and the outside world.

“The [discoveries] demonstrate that the high mountains of southern Norway were not isolated places with no outside interaction,” Pil tells GlacierHub.

Archaeologists have been monitoring the region since the first ski was discovered, utilising satellite imagery and, in 2016, an in-person survey.

“We could observe from satellite images this year that the ice patch had receded compared to 2014,” Pil says in the blog post.

On September 20, two researchers went to the site and discovered the second ski firmly embedded in ice about 15 feet from where the first one was discovered. By the time a larger team with better equipment arrived, the area had been re-covered by new snowfall. Fortunately, the crew was able to locate the second ski using GPS data and photos. They used an ice axe and tepid water to release the ski after cleaning the area with a snow shovel.

The Digervarden ice patch has previously revealed relics and monuments connected to reindeer hunting, according to David Nikel of Life in Norway. Archaeologists have also discovered many cairns that might have been part of an ancient mountain track. They believe the owner of the skis was a hunter, traveller, or both.

Following the finding of the first ski, the researchers questioned if its underside had been coated with fur, as other old skis were. The new ski addresses that mystery: it contains a furrow similar to those seen on other ancient and modern skis, which would have served no function if covered, leading researchers to assume that the skis did not have fur.

According to National Geographic, at the conclusion of the last Ice Age, hunters in Europe and Asia began utilising skis to pursue animals. Disputed evidence of skiing found in China stretches back to 8000 B.C.E., but the earliest verified ski, discovered in Russia, dates back to 6000 B.C.E. Archaeologists in Scandinavia have discovered wooden skis and ski-like objects dating back to 3200 B.C.E.

Pil and his colleagues revealed the finding of a centuries-old beeswax candle and a lamb’s wool tunic dated to about 300 C.E. near the Lendbreen ice patch in June, as Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky wrote at the time. That area may be found in the Jotunheim Mountains, just south of Digervarden.

Header image: Close-up view of the repaired foothold of the 1,300-year-old ski Espen Finstad / Secrets of the Ice

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