New Knowledge of Glacier's Past

The Glacier Ice Patch Project has produced important scientific information about past climates and cultures. Though no human-made artifacts have been found, an array of paleo-biological discoveries have enormous potential to inform our understanding about climates and ecosystems of Glacier’s past, as well as the ways that these systems have transformed over time. The team has found organic material as old as 6500 BP, and identified species no longer found around or above the ice patches, suggesting treeline was higher, and temperatures warmer, at least two times in the past. The discovery of an approximately 1,000-year-old bison skull showed that bison once used Glacier’s steep, high-elevation country, something scientists did not have evidence of before.

A New Protocol that Blends Science and Tribal Heritage Values

Other accomplishments include the development of a protocol for field and lab work, analysis, and transport of artifacts. The protocol is now used by all of Glacier Park's field-going personnel in discovery situations. This ‘living’ document is being revised adaptively in response to conditions encountered in the field, based on input from crew. Glacier National Park and the Rocky Moutains CESU will work with Intermountain Region and Washington Office cultural resources programs to disseminate the culturally sensitive field and lab protocols as a transferable example to other parks and agencies.

National Recognition

Importantly, the Ice Patch team has been such a successful model of collaborative in project planning and execution that Glacier National Park will continue to work closely with team members on future cultural resources activities under the newly-formed Glacier Cultural Resources Management Group. In recognition of this, the Glacier National Park Ice Patch Archaeology and Paleoecology Project was awarded the Department of the Interior's 2012 Partners in Conservation Award in recognition of outstanding conservation achievements attained through collaboration and partnership. “This national award recognizes a level of collaboration, cooperation, and communication that far exceeds the usual requirements for consultation, and has identified employees of the park and our partners as leaders in conservation,” said former Glacier Superintendent Chas Cartwright.
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In 2012 a high-elevation ice patch forefield yielded a number of animal bones. The bones showed no signs of human modification and were likely deposited when the animals died naturally, probably upslope of their current location.