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Iron age horse found in Norway as glacier recedes

By Anne Sewell     Sep 22, 2013 in World
Lillehammer - As global warming melts ice sheets and glaciers in the world, more and more discoveries are being made. In this case the remains of an iron age horse have been found 2,000 meters up in the mountains of Norway.
Reportedly this is the first time the remains of such an animal have been found at that altitude. They believe the horse had suffered from a broken leg and they also found horseshoes, dating back 800-900 years.
The Local spoke to Lars Pilø, the head of snow archeology at Oppland council, who said:
"It shows that they were using horses for transport in the high alpine zone, in areas where we were quite surprised to find them."
He explained that the horse, whose remains they discovered, had probably been used to carry reindeer carcasses down from the mountains to the villages below.
Reportedly the team has previously found perfectly preserved 1000-year-old horse manure, and horse shoes dropped in the ice.
They also made headlines around the world earlier this year when they found a 1,700-year-old woolen tunic, fully intact apart from the two patches sewed into it by its original iron age owner.
The latest discovery was made in August and is the latest of a string of amazing finds that archeologists have been making as ice melts, leaving behind perfectly preserved relics. However, while the finds are exciting, there are concerns too.
"Even though the finds up there are fantastic, the background to the science is very serious," Pilø said. "Norwegian climate experts tell us that all the ice in the Norwegian high mountains will be gone by the end of this century, and of course that also adds an urgency to the work that we're doing."
Hailing from Denmark, Pilø and his team of archaeologists are concentrating their research around the Lendbreen glacier, located between Lom and Skjåk.
Pilø believes the area was used for hunting, and also as a short cut over the mountains, during the late iron age to the early medieval period.
He explained that, "When it gets hot in the summer, the reindeer will get pestered by horseflies, and when they get horseflies they move up to the ice, which made the ice excellent hunting grounds."
He went on to explain that another reason for the recent discoveries is that people would cross the glaciers as a transport route over the mountains.
"You can imagine, if people went over ten times a year and dropped one thing every time, that adds up to a lot of items," he added.
Pilø stressed that it is important to keep the melting ice under constant observation. He said that once an uncovered artifact defrosts, the team have just days to begin preserving it.
"When they're in the ice, they're in the deep freezer, so they're incredibly well preserved. It's like they've been in a time machine," he added. "But once they're out in the open the clock starts ticking really fast. We have to be there when they come out."
NRK (in Norwegian) has more photos of the discovery.
Pilø told NRK: "There is a lot of media interest in our work. In recent years there have been several reports in the international media and other sites."
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