Archaeologists Open Frozen Wooden Box Found on Viking Mountain Pass

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Archaeologists Open Frozen Wooden Box Found on Viking Mountain Pass

The melting of glacial ice along a mountain passage in Norway has led to the discovery of hundreds of ancient artifacts, including items from the Viking Age.

The wooden box found on the Lendbreen ice patch in Norway’s Breheimen National Park.

One of them, a wooden box with a tightly attached lid, has finally been opened and reveals its precious contents.

Bit of beeswax. Yes, the wooden box contained a plain old candle. Not gold, not jewelry, not a Magic book – just a beeswax candle.

Well, a candle may and may seem like an anti-climactic thing to be discovered, but this is it artifact and its well-preserved box say Still an interesting story – one that has to do with annual hikes over a well-traveled mountain pass.

The opened box, with its beeswax contents inside.

The Lendbreen Ice Field, located in Oppland Country, Norway, was first discovered by glacier archaeologists in 2011 and slowly but surely shows a history of use that spans 1,200 years.

Glacier ice has received organic objects made of wood, leather, bones and wool, and global warming is doing them now visible to archaeologists.

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The variety of articles found in this passage is amazing: Things like Viking spears, a tunic made of wool, horse snowshoes, gloves, shoes, walking sticks, knives, dog leashes and even the remains of A. Dog.

And of course the wooden box, described on The Secrets of the Ice Facebook page as “one of the greatest finds we have discovered from the melting ice”.

Lendbreen after the melt: The upper part of the Lendbreen ice patch after the big melt in 2019. The surface of the ice is covered with horse dung

Archaeologists in the group better known in Innlandet as the Glacier Archeology Program were curious about the age of the box, the type of wood it was made from, and of course its cargo.

Radiocarbon dating places the box between AD 1475 and 1635 AD So between 546 and It’s actually not 386 years old The ancient, and it dates the Viking Age at least 400 years later.

The box itself was made of pine and contained the remains of a beeswax candle, according to an analysis by the Museum of Cultural History in Oslo.

“Now we know that candle boxes like this were used a long time ago,” the researchers explained. “It also goes well with what we know about traffic through Lendbreen Pass.”

In fact, these boxes were used by farmers to move candles from their main farms to their summer farms. A post from the History Blog brings color to this practice:

Candle boxes were widely used in Norway to transport expensive beeswax candles between seasonal farms. This was a practical aspect of the Norwegian practice of seterbruk, or summer grazing. The farmers moved their cattle from their home farms to the summer pastures to graze there. The summer farms had Spartan living quarters in which the caretakers, usually just two people, a herdsman and a milkmaid, stayed the whole season while they looked after the cattle, milked the animals and made dairy products on site. This practice maximized the limited resources of a cold, forested, and mountainous land by giving farmers access to larger areas of pasture not available on the home farm and allowing them to harvest hay and forage around the farm during the long Winter to supply.

So the candles were an important resource! And the candle boxes held and protected these items while driving. On their summer farms, these candles were the only source of indoor lighting at night as the farmers worked from early spring to autumn.

The research team’s basecamp at Lendbreen during a silent and clear night. The site was discovered in 2011

The farmers probably packed as lightly as possible for the long hike over the mountain pass, because the most essentials are contained in the candle boxes.

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Sure – the wooden box did not store treasure by modern standards. But its contents, although a commonplace household item, can hardly be called a disappointment.

For archaeologists, there is practically nothing from the past that could be described as a disappointment.

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