The widespread trend toward atypical melting in alpine snow and ice patches has hastened the development of the field of ice patch archaeology since the late 1990s. Although a seemingly new phenomenon, archaeological discoveries on glaciers and perennial frozen snow and ice patches sparked public imagination–if not archaeological science–once before, during the 1920s and 1930s. Under the dual storylines, “Ice Gives up Indian Arrow” and “Remarkably Fine Specimen of Ancient Weapon Found in North is Centuries Old,” the March 15, 1925 issue of the Vancouver Province newspaper narrates the first discovery of a complete arrow with fletching, sinew lashing and a chipped stone projectile point made on a glacier in North America (British Columbia, Canada). Around the same time, complete arrows with fletching, sinew lashing and projectile points were found in the Oppdal Mountains of central Norway. These early discoveries were regarded as curiosities and not the harbingers of a soon-to-be globally relevant research frontier. The advent of ice patch archaeology in the modern era coincides with public recognition of global warming and public lands policy, including support for research and protection of the items found in ice patches.
Archaeological remains from alpine ice in western North America range in age from hundreds to 10,000+ years old and 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.
A 10,300-year-old throwing dart discovered by University of Colorado professor Craig Lee near Yellowstone. It is it the oldest wooden foreshaft found in North America.
Ice Patch Research Projects
A Gallery of Items Found in Ice Patches in Other Areas
Conference Announcement: Frozen Pasts Announces its Next International Frozen Past Conference
Journal Announcement: Journal of Glacial Archaeology
• Tribal Climate Change Newsletter
• Changing Climate and Archaeological Resources
• Ice Patch Research Project (Yukon Territory and First Nations, Canada)
• Ötzi, Schnidi and the Reindeer Hunters: Ice Patch Archaeology and Holocene Climate Change (University of Bern, Switzerland)
• Glacier for Teachers
• Retreat of Glaciers in Glacier National Park
• Climate Change in Mountain Ecosystems (CCME)
• Retroactive: Blogging Alberta’s Historic Places
• Frozen Pasts
University of New Mexico Anthropology Professor and Director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico James Dixon discusses ice patch research, which is directly linked to climate change.