How climate change is revealing, and threatening, thawing relics

(CNN)Since the scorching hot summer of 2006, almost 3,000 archaeological artifacts have appeared from the melting ice in Oppland, Northern Norway. Among them, an Iron Age tunic, a 1,500-year-old arrow and a 3,400-year-old shoe.

Here, a a glacier archaeology program called Secrets of the Ice is documenting the finds being made on local ice patches -- static or slow-moving ice fields that are ideal locations to find objects that were once lost in the snow.
Instead of having to dig like traditional archaeologists, Oppland's archaeologists simply survey areas of the ice, looking out for artifacts that have thawed.
Many of Norway's glaciers have experienced increased melting this century, caused by warmer temperatures. But whilst the changing climate is presenting archaeologists with exciting finds, it is also threatening to destroy ancient relics before archaeologists ever see them.

    Secrets of the Ice

    "Glaciers melt back at an alarming pace because of higher temperatures, less snow and more rain, and in doing so they expose archaeological finds that have been safely ice-covered for centuries or even millennia," explained Vibeke Vandrup Martens, an archaeologist at the Norwegian Institute for Cultural Heritage Research.
    Once an artifact is exposed to oxygen and sunlight, it will start to degrade, she said.