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The Alpine “Iceman” and Holocene Climatic Change

  • Carlo Baroni (a1) and Giuseppe Orombelli (a2)

The finding of a prehistoric mummified corpse at the upper edge of the accumulation area of an alpine glacier, together with its unique set of artifacts, provided new information on glacier dimensions during the little-known phases of major glacier shrinkage that characterized the warmest parts of the Holocene. The sudden burial of the corpse in a permanent snow cover occurred 5300–5050 cal yr B.P., indicating a significant climatic change that induced glacier expansion at the beginning of Neoglaciation. New geomorphologic data and two AMS 14C ages from buried soils suggest that the present glacier size, following over 100 yr of shrinkage, is comparable to that immediately preceding Neoglaciation. Therefore, we can deduce that the current global climatic warming may have interrupted the environmental conditions prevailing in the Alps during Neoglacial time, restoring characteristics similar to those prevailing during the climatic optimum that were never achieved during the second half of the Holocene.

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Quaternary Research
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