Updated: Apr 25, 2020
Glacier melt and eroding cliffs are exposing Viking-era artifacts that are changing our understanding of how the Vikings lived—and died—in these regions.
One such place where such artifacts are regularly being uncovered is in the Jotunheimen Mountains of southern Norway, the tallest mountain region in northern Europe. As temperatures have increased in this region due to climate change, the Lendbreen ice patch has slowly melted, recently revealing a Viking-era horse’s snowshoe, a Stone Age iron arrowhead, and even 750-year-old skis.
These are a few of over 2,000 artifacts found over the last few years in these Norse mountain ranges, which prove that the mountains were “not as an extreme and isolated environment, but,"according to anthropologist Shoshi Parks, "a place of continuous human activity going back thousands of years.”
Archaeologists now believe that this pass was once a sort of trade route that was used from 300 Ad to 1,000 AD. Piles of stones marked the route, and permanent shelters dotted the landscape.
For a video of the discovery of a runic inscription on a 11th-century walking stick, click here.
Another site that recently revealed some surprising finds was in Newark Bay in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Here, hundreds of Pictish or Viking human remains were uncovered recently when ocean erosion of a low cliff revealed part of a 1,500-year-old cemetery.
Although the original cemetery was excavated in the 1960s and ‘70s, and 250 skeletons were moved to a safer location away from the side of the cliff, they clearly missed a number of skeletons. Archaeologists now believe that there may be hundreds of other ancient remains still yet to be found at this site.
The relationship between the Picts and the Norse on the Orkney Islands is yet unclear; some believe that the Norse took the region by force while others think they settled down and intermarried with the Picts. It’s possible that the remains, once DNA tested, may shed light on how integrated the Vikings became with the local population.