Skip to main content

Melting snow patches reveal Neolithic archery

  • Martin Callanan (a1)

High altitude snowfields provide repositories of well-preserved organic remains of considerable antiquity, as spectacular discoveries such as the Similaun Iceman illustrate. In Scandinavia, melting snow patches have been systematically surveyed by volunteer groups for almost a century, and a growing collection of archaeological artefacts has been recovered. Only recently, however, has AMS dating confirmed that some of the finds go back as far as the Neolithic. Here fragments of five Neolithic arrowshafts and a Neolithic longbow discovered in 2010–11 in the Oppdal area of Norway are described. They throw light on Neolithic bow and arrow technology and tangentially on the hunting techniques which may have attracted hunters to these snow patches in search of game. The progressive and accelerated melting of the snow patches in recent years draws attention to processes of climate change and the urgency of discovering and recovering these fragile perishable artefacts.

Hide All
Alsaker, S.K. 2005. Fra jeger til bonde, in Bull, I., Skevik, O., Sognnes, K. & Stugu, O.S. (ed.) Trøndelags historie, bind 1: 5981. Trondheim: Tapir akademisk.
Andrews, T.D., Mackay, G., & Andrew, L.. 2012. Archaeological investigations of alpine ice patches in the Selwyn Mountains, Northwest Territories, Canada. Arctic 65 (S1): 122.
Åstveit, L.I. 2007. Høyfjellsarkeologi under snø og is. Viking 70: 722.
Beckhoff, K. 1977. Der Eibenbogen von Koldingen, Stadt Pattensen, Lkr. Hannover. Nachrichten aus Niedersachsens Urgeschichte 46: 177188.
Bergman, C.A. 1993. The development of the bow in western Europe: a technological and functional perspective. Archaeological Papers of the American Anthropological Association 4: 95105.
Brook, R.K. 2009. Ignoring the elephant in the room: the carbon footprint of climate change research. Arctic 62: 253255.
Callanan, M. 2012. Central Norwegian snow patch archaeology. Patterns past and present. Arctic 65 (S1): 179189.
Callanan, M. & Barton, K.. 2010. Experimental geophysical surveying on an Alpine snow patch 2008—2009. Poster presented at the 37th Alaska Anthropological Association Meeting, Anchorage, 24—27 March 2010.
Clark, J.G.D. 1963. Neolithic bows from Somerset, England, and the prehistory of archery in north-western Europe. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 3: 5090.
Dixon, J.E., Manley, W.F. & Lee, C.M.. 2005. The emerging archaeology of glaciers and ice patches: examples from Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. American Antiquity 70: 129143.
Egg, M. 1992. Zur Ausrüstung des Toten vom Hauslabjoch Gem. Schnals (Südtirol), in Höpfel, F., Platzer, W. & Spindler, K. (ed.) Der Mann Im Eis. Band 1: 254272. Innsbruck: Eigenverlag der Universität Innsbruck.
Engelhardt, C. 1865. Nydam mosefund. 1859-1863. Bind 2: Sønderjyske og Fynske mosefund. Køhenihavn.
Fægri, K. 1938. Forandringer ved norske breer 1936—1937, in Bergens Museums Årbok 1938 (Vitenskapelig rekke 4): 316. Bergen: Universitetet i Bergen.
Farbregd, O. 1972. Pilefunn frå Oppdalsfjella (Miscellanea 5). Trondheim: Det Kgl. Norske Videnskabers Selskab, Muséet.
Farbregd, O. 1983. Snøfonner, pilefunn og dyregraver, in Årshete 1983 (Rapport arkeologisk serie 1983: 5): 746. Trondheim: Det Kgl. Norske Videnskabers Selskab, Muséet.
Farbregd, O. 2009. Archery history from ancient snow and ice, in Brattli, T. (ed.) The 58th International Sachsensymposium, 1—5 September 2007 (Vitark 7): 156170. Trondheim: Tapir akademisk.
Farnell, R., Hare, P.G., Blake, E., Bowyer, V., Schweger, C., Greer, S. & Gotthardt, R.. 2004. Multidisciplinary investigations of alpine ice patches in southwest Yukon, Canada: paleoenvironmental and paleobiological investigations. Arctic 57: 247259.
Finstad, E. & Vedeler, M.. 2008. En bronsealdersko fra Jotunheimen. Viking 71: 6170.
Gunnarsdóttir, H. & Høeg, H.I.. 2000. Holocene vegetation history of the mountain areas of Lesja and Dovre, south central Norway, in light of climate change and human impact. AmS-Skrifter 16: 1146.
Hjelle, K., Hufthammer, A.K. & Bergsvik, K.A.. 2006. Hesitant hunters: a review ofthe introduction of agriculture in western Norway. Environmental Archaeology 11: 147170.
Isaksen, K., Sollid, J.L., Holmlund, P. & Harris, C.. 2007. Recent warming ofmountain permafrost in Svalbard and Scandinavia. Journal of Geophysical Research 112: F02S04. doi:10.1029/2006JF000522
Junkmanns, J. 2010. Pfeil und Bogen in Westeuropa. Von der Altsteinzeit bis zum Mittelalter. Unpublished PhD dissertation, Eberhard KarlsUniversität Tubingen.
Kooi, B.W. 1983. On the mechanics ofthe bow and arrow. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Groningen.
Larsson, L. 1983. Agerød V, an Atlantic bog site in central Scania (Acta Archaeologica Lundensia 8/12). Lund: Institute of Archaeology, University of Lund.
Lee, C. 2012. Withering snow and ice in the mid-latitudes: a new archaeological and paleobiological record for the Rocky Mountains region. Arctic 65 (S1): 165177.
Michelsen, O., Syverhuset, A.O., Pedersen, B. & Holten, J.I.. 2011. The impact of climate change on recent vegetation changes on Dovrefjell, Norway. Diversity 3: 91111.
Mímisbrunnr. n.d. Buen fra Breheimen — 3300 ar gammel. Available at: (accessed 13 November 2012).
Mitchell, P. 2008. Practicing archaeology at a time of climatic catastrophe. Antiquity 82: 10931103.
Moen, A. 1987. The regional vegetation of Norway; that of central Norway in particular. Norwegian Journal of Geography 41: 179225.
Nedkvitne, K. & Gjerdåker, J.. 1995. Alm i norsk natur og tradisjon. Elverum: Norsk Skogbruksmuseum.
Olsen, A. 2009. Transition to farming in western Norway seen as a rapid replacement of landscapes, in McCartan, S., Schulting, R., Warren, G. & Woodman, P. (ed.) Mesolithic horizons. Papers presented at the Seventh International Conference on the Mesolithic in Europe, Belfast 2005: 589596. Oxford: Oxbow.
Rowland, M.J. 2010. Will the sky fall in? Global warming — an alternative view. Antiquity 84: 11631171.
Suter, P., Hafner, A. & Glauser, K.. 2005. Lenk-Schnidejoch. Funde aus dem Eis-ein vor-und frühgeschichtlicher Passübergang. Archäologie in Kanton Bern 6(b): 499522.
VanderHoek, R., Tedor, R.M. & Mcmahan, J.D.. 2007. Cultural materials recovered from ice patches in the Denali Highway Region, central Alaska, 2003 — 2005. Alaska Journal of Anthropology 5(2): 185200.
Waguespack, N.M., Surovell, T.A., Denoyer, A., Dallow, A., Savage, A., Hyneman, J. & Tapster, D.. 2009. Making a point: wood- versus stone-tipped projectiles. Antiquity 83: 786800.
Ytrehus, B., Bretten, T., Bersjø, B., & Isaksen, K.. 2008. Fatal pneumonia epizootic in musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) in a period ofextraordinary weather conditions. EcoHealth 5: 213223.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0003-598X
  • EISSN: 1745-1744
  • URL: /core/journals/antiquity
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed