In 2011, hikers in the snowy mountains of central Norway came across a 1700-year-old wool tunic, likely belonging to a Roman-era hypothermia victim. As ice in the region has continued to melt, researchers have made hundreds of additional finds. Now, archaeologists have made their biggest discovery yet: a lost Viking trade route that may have been used for hundreds of years to ferry everything from butter to reindeer antlers to far-flung European markets. “The Viking age is one of small-scale globalization: They’re sourcing raw materials from all over,” says Søren Michael Sindbæk, an archaeologist at Aarhus University in Denmark who was not involved with the work. “This is the first site where we have good chronology and the finds to illustrate that.” In the new study, Lars Piloe, an archaeologist at the Innlandet County Council Department of Cultural Heritage in Lillehammer, Norway, and colleagues radiocarbon dated dozens of artifacts from the Jotunheimen mountains. They focused on an ice patch known as Lendbreen, which has melted rapidly over the past 9 years, collecting the relics between 2011 and 2015. The objects date back to the Bronze Age, between 1750 B.C.E. and 300 C.E., the team found. The oldest are mostly arrows and other hunting equipment, likely used to kill reindeer.
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