Offbeat

Melting Artic Ice Reveals Ancient Weapons

The Canadian Arctic is the unlikely site of an amazing treasure trove of ancient weaponry. Melting ice patches in the Yukon’s remote Mackenzie Mountains have uncovered a collection of weapons that dates back more than 2,000 years. These spears, squirrel snares and bow and arrows are shedding significant light upon ancient hunting strategies. Read on for more about this scintillating find.

This array of ancient weapons buried under centuries of snow was discovered in a region ordinarily dotted with significant ice patches that until recently remained frozen all year. Caribou huddle on these formations during the warmer months of the year as they offer remote respite from the heat and annoying bugs. This age old practice makes the caribou easy targets for lazy hunters.

According to Tom Andrews, an archaeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center in Yellowknife and lead researcher on the International Polar Year Ice Patch Study:

“We are talking of complete examples of ancient technology, including arrows with wooden shafts, feathers and sinew hafting. These artifacts are giving us an entirely new appreciation of how ancient hunting tools were made and used. There are wooden arrows and dart shafts so fine you can’t believe someone sat down with a stone and made them.”

This specific field of Ice Patch archaeology originated in the southern Yukon back in 1997 when sheep-herders uncovered a 4,300-year-old dart shaft floating amid the caribou dung in the thawing patches of ice.

In the words of Greg Hare, a Yukon archaeologist who analyzed the original discovery:

“Following that discovery, we recovered more than 200 ancient hunting artifacts, with the oldest dating back more than 9,000 years.”

These fascinating finds, in addition to the unearthing of some 1,600 animal bones, and mummified remains of plants, small mammals and birds that had been preserved in the ice for thousands of years, can be attributed to the unintentional benefits of global warming.

In the next year or so, Andrews and his team will be targeting some twenty ice patches for the retrieval of priceless and highly fragile artifacts as they go through the melting process. It is a race against time as the artifacts must be collected before they are either trampled by caribou or dissolved by acidic soils.

Despite the life threatening ramifications of global warming, in this case it has opened an important door to the past that will help us understand our ancestors in even greater detail.

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