Shrinking Ice
Most anthropologists used to believe that prior to European-American settlement tribes avoided subalpine and alpine areas. But in 1993, the discovery of a piece of a 2,900-year-old basket beside a snowfield in Olympic National Park proved they were wrong. As did ice-patch research in other national parks, especially Alaska. In Wrangell-St. Elias during the summers of 2001 and 2003, for example, a team discovered a handful of prehistoric sites that yielded wooden shafts, arrowheads, leather leggings, and a birch bark basket; some nearly 3,000 years old. Since then, ice-patch research has been conducted in other areas.

In northwestern North America, researchers have conducted systematic investigations of ice patches in the Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, and in Alaska (including Denali, Gates of the Arctic, Katmai, Lake Clark and Wrangell-St. Elias National Parks, the Chugach National Forest, and the Tangle Lakes area south of the Alaska Range). In the conterminous United States, investigations have occurred in the Colorado Front Range, including Rocky Mountain National Park, within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of Montana and Wyoming, and Olympic National Park in Washington.

Archaeological remains from alpine ice in western North America include ancient wooden dart shafts and fragments, fletched wooden arrows, antler foreshafts, baskets, numerous wooden artifacts of uncertain function, butchered animal remains, and chipped stone artifacts. Fragments of weapons ranging in age between 10,400 cal BP and 200 cal BP.

Evidence of Climate Change


Use the slider on the photos below to see evidence of the changes.
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Boulder Glacier in 1932 (top) and 2005 (bottom), showing the extent of melting that has occurred in Glacier National Park due to climate change. Ice patches have also shrunk. Boulder Glacier is also shown in the Banner image.

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