It all started in 2014. A team of Norwegian glacier archaeologists looking for pre-Viking artifacts buried in ice on the Norwegian mountain Digervarden, about 350 km north of Oslo, came across a very old worked piece of wood.
The object preserved in ice for about 1300 years was the best preserved ski from the pre-Viking era in the world. The fact that it was a ski, and not just a piece of wood, was perfectly clear to everyone at first glance. A twisted birch twig and a leather strap were attached in the middle of the board, which could be nothing more than a primitive binding.
Seven years to a new discovery
“From the moment the first ski appeared in the slush seven years ago, we had hoped and prayed for the second to show up,” said Lars Pilø, co-director. Secrets of the Ice, an offshoot of the Glacier Archaeological Program in Innlandet, Norway. “It simply came to our notice then. Both skis from the Digervarden mountain are the best-preserved pair of skis from prehistory. “
Secrets of the Ice is a research program led by the county of Innlandet. The team is investigating several archeological sites that are in danger of being damaged due to the melting of Norwegian glaciers.
The new discovery was not accidental. Since the discovery seven years ago, the Norwegian team has been closely monitoring part of Mount Digervarden, hoping to find the missing skis in the receding ice. The second survey in 2016 has not yet revealed anything, but this year satellite images showed that the ice has receded further compared to 2014. So on September 20, archaeologists Runar Hole and Bjørn Hessen set out to explore the remote area again.
The hot water helped
And they succeeded: they found the second ski still stuck in the ice just five meters from where the first one was discovered. However, a snowstorm and heavy snowfall on Mount Digervarden, which is slightly higher than Sněžka, made it impossible for Holem and Hessen to remove the ski. Therefore, on September 26, a larger team with ice axes, gas stoves and other materials went to the site to free the ski from the ice and transport it to safety.
They managed to do this with the help of an ice ax, but mainly heated water, which melted the ice in which the ski was trapped. When they freed it from the ice, they found that it really corresponded to the ski unveiled in 2014. But that was not all. The newly discovered artifact was in even better condition.
187 cm a 17 cm
Both skis are wide boards with an increased support point and the same type of primitive binding that remained intact. The longer ski measures 187 cm and is almost 17 cm wide. The length is comparable to today’s skis, but with a width of 170 mm it is much wider than even the widest skis in deep powder.
“It’s an incredible find,” says Pilø. “A number of very old skis have been discovered in Scandinavia. Most of them have been found in swamps and their condition varies. Only one of Finland was with preserved bindings. Thanks to a very well-preserved pair of skis from Digervarden, we can see much more precisely today what the oldest skis really looked like. ”
The new finding also provides experts with better information about what skis were used for 1300 years ago. Numerous reindeer hunting tools as well as ancient mounds were discovered on Mount Digervarden. There could have been a trail there. Experts are now wondering whether the skis were used primarily for hunting, mountain transport, or both.