Seven years ago, archaeologists found a beautifully preserved prehistoric ski on top of a Norwegian mountain, and the team has been searching for the missing counterpart ever since. Incredibly, they are now claiming to have found the missing relic.
The archaeologists of the Secrets of the Ice program discovered the first ski in 2014, on the ice sheet of Digervarden in Norway. The 1,300 year old wooden ski was found in an incredible state of preservation, complete with birch rope bindings and leather straps. This was only the second prehistoric ski found with its binding still attached, the other being a slightly older ski found in MÃ¤nttÃ¤, Finland.
Because the skis come in pairs, archaeologists thought it was possible that both pieces were abandoned at the same time and in the same location. But they struggled to find the quid pro quo, despite continued surveillance of the region over the following years. Satellite images from the start of the year showed that the ice in the area had receded considerably, prompting them to send an archaeologist to investigate. On September 20, archaeologist Runar Hole, along with his expedition companion BjÃ¸rn Hessen, spotted the ski sticking out of the ice, team member Lars PilÃ¸ wrote in a Secrets of Ice. item describing the discovery.
In an incredible stroke of luck, the missing ski was found just 16 feet (5 meters) from where the first ski was found seven years earlier. The ski was firmly stuck in the ice, and since Hole did not have the tools to dislodge it, he and his partner were forced to leave it behind, but not before recording his precise position with the photograph and the GPS.
A recovery team was quickly assembled, but nature had other plans. A “storm hit our high mountains before we could come back with proper gear and a bigger team,” PilÃ¸ wrote. âWith that, there was snowfall, exactly what we wanted to avoid. The team had to wait and hope the snow didn’t bury the ski out of reach. Doing âfieldwork in high mountains at the end of September is a marginal affair,â he added.
On September 26, the team, equipped with ice axes, gas coolers and packing materials, made an arduous three-hour ascent to the site. They got a new blanket of snow, with skiing nowhere to be seen. Using GPS coordinates and photos, they managed to find it buried under 12 inches (30 cm) of freshly fallen snow. After clearing away the snow, they discovered that the ice “still held an iron grip on the back of the ski,” PilÃ¸ wrote.
Using an ax, a member of the team carefully carved the ice surrounding the relic. Hot water was then used to dislodge the ski from the ice underneath. PilÃ¸ said the “moment of truth” came when archaeologists turned the ski upside down and the binding appeared, revealing the “same type of binding as on the ski found in 2014”. This meant that the team had found the missing ski, and that they could reunite the couple after 1,300 years.
“The new ski is even better preserved than the first,” said PilÃ¸. “It’s an incredible find.”
The second ski is 6.1 feet (1.87 meters) long and 6.7 inches (17 cm) wide, making it slightly larger than the one found in 2014. The superior preservation is likely due to the fact that the ski is buried deeper in the ice. It was found with three twisted birch bindings, a leather thong, and a wooden plug that went through a hole at the socket. The top of the toe binding was missing on both skis. The newly discovered ski appears to have undergone several repairs, which suggests that it was a well-used and valued item.
Archaeologists are trying to figure out why these skis were abandoned and what happened to the Iron Age skier. As PilÃ¸ writes:
Has a hunter left his skis? Maybe a sudden snowfall could have buried them beyond recovery? It might not be that likely. Presumably, the hunter would have placed the skis upright in the snow so that it was easy to spot them on the way back. A small avalanche could perhaps be the cause.
Another possibility is that there has been an accident. Maybe the skier fell and destroyed the toe bindings in the fall? The skis could no longer be used and were left behind. One argument against this explanation is that the heavens must have been of significant value. One of them underwent repairs. Plus, they have holes in the front that would have made it easy to drag them behind in a rope when exiting the mountains. So why leave them behind when they could have been brought and repaired in the plains?
PilÃ¸ wonders if an accident caused the death or serious injury of the owner. If so, the frozen remains of this individual could be buried somewhere in the Digervarden ice patch. It’s hard to say, but with man-made climate change causing the ice to melt, archaeologists are finding all sorts of things on this mountain. Finding the remains of this skier is not beyond the realm of possibility.
Following: Archaeologists open frozen wooden box found on Viking Mountain Pass.