Thursday, September 11, 2008

Glacier-free Schnidejoch passes yields ancient artifacts

Figure 1Receding Alpine glaciers have uncovered a trove of ancient artifacts in recent years. Last month, Swiss archaeologists announced that they had dated some of the items to as far back as 4500 B.C.E.--1000 years before the famous Iceman.

The owner of the items--a piece of wooden bowl and leather from a shoe--remains missing. But he has been named "Schnidi" after the Schnidejoch pass, where the items were found. "We now know that the findings at Schnidejoch are the oldest [yet discovered] in the Alps," said Albert Hafner, chief scientist at the Archaeological Survey of the Canton of Bern, at a news conference.

Since 2003, when record-high summer temperatures caused extensive melting of the ice at the 2756-meter-high pass, archaeologists have retrieved 300 items of hunting gear, fur, leather and woolen clothing, and tools belonging to early travelers or hunters moving between the Rhône Valley and parts north. Radiometric dating at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology indicates that a bow, a birch-bark quiver, and arrows were dropped in the pass in the early Bronze Age, about 4000 years ago. Other finds include Roman coins and needles dating to about 200 C.E. and fragments of early and late Medieval apparel. - More

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