It seems at the moment as though glaciers are becoming as prevalent for archaeology as car parks. A few weeks ago, I posted a piece about an Iron Age tunic and arrows that have been found due to thawing ice, and now the Lendbreen glacier near Lillehammer, Norway, has thrown up another Iron Age item of interest: a horse. This perhaps doesn’t sound too exciting in itself, but it is actually rather interesting as it is one of the only examples of a horse discovered from this period that is at such a high altitude. It is thought that this glacier was used from the Late Iron Age to the Early Medieval period as a short cut across the mountains, but the view proposed by Lars Pilø, the Head of Snow Archaeology* at Oppland council, is that this animal would once have been used to transport reindeer carcasses down the mountains. In the summer months, horseflies affect the deer and force them to higher altitudes where the insects cannot survive, which also makes the ice the perfect hunting ground due to its lack of cover and good visibility (i.e. dark animal on white snow). Personally, I am unsure how we can really say which theory is correct, as any load would have been removed from the horse once it had died and therefore there would be little to inform us of its original purpose in that location. However, it does show us again that this glacier (and presumably many more glaciers besides this one) have a vast number of secrets still to tell us.
* I’m intrigued! Snow archaeology? Is the study of features highlighted by the snow a distinct area of archaeology or does it come under landscape and reconnaissance? Or is it something different? I think I may need to do a bit of research!