If you thought that rapid and potentially catastrophic climate change was all bad, think again. High in the Mackenzie Mountains in Canada, a treasure trove of ancient hunting tools is being revealed as warming temperatures melt patches of ice that have been in place for thousands of years.
Ice patches are accumulations of annual snow that, until recently, remained frozen all year. For millennia, caribou seeking relief from summer heat and insects have made their way to ice patches where they bed down until cooler temperatures prevail. Hunters noticed caribou were, in effect, marooned on these ice islands and took advantage.
In 1997, sheep hunters discovered a 4,300-year-old dart shaft in caribou dung that had become exposed as the ice receded. Scientists who investigated the site found layers of caribou dung buried between annual deposits of ice. They also discovered a repository of well-preserved artifacts.
The highest mountain in the range, Keele Peak, in 2005
(photo credit: wikipedia)
Since that discovery, researchers have found 2400-year-old spear throwing tools, a 1000-year-old ground squirrel snare, and bows and arrows dating back 850 years. Biologists involved in the project are examining dung for plant remains, insect parts, pollen and caribou parasites. Others are studying DNA evidence to track the lineage and migration patterns of caribou.
"The implements are truly amazing. There are wooden arrows and dart shafts so fine you can't believe someone sat down with a stone and made them," says Tom Andrews, an archaeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre in Yellowknife
Unfortunately, the team is in a race against time. Each summer, the patches continue to melt. In fact, two of the eight original patches have already disappeared.
"We realize that the ice patches are continuing to melt and we have an ethical obligation to collect these artifacts as they are exposed," says Andrews. If left on the ground, exposed artifacts would be trampled by caribou or dissolved by the acidic soils. "In a year or two the artifacts would be gone."
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Highlights From ICNFP 2015
- Most Idiotic Rejection Of Course From Philosopher Of Science Not Grasping Relativity
- Artificial Intelligence: It's Time To Talk About What Emotions We Want AI To Have
- Supertranslations And Eternal Ghosts: Black Holes No Closer To Being Understood
- Innate GMO Potato Deregulated By USDA
- Lettuces Now, What Next - Could Astronauts Get All Their Oxygen And Food From Algae Or Plants?
- Brain Size Matters When It Comes To Remembering
- "I wouldn't take it too hard buddy. Suppose they did publish it- then what, 20 more people might..."
- "I had some problems with Dr. Vongehr's short essay. One of them is the broken English. Now I am..."
- "Carney3 - when Columbus sailed to America - his boat was the results of several millennia of development..."
- "The ISS being used to do even more unnecessary human-factors research is a waste of time and money..."
- "I have a friend who has 2 Ph.D., one in nuclear physics and one in philosophy. His general observation..."
- “Shock Therapy” – Not a Cuckoo’s Nest, a Valid Depression Rx
- Innate: Simplot genetically engineered potato gets USDA nod for deregulation
- Sorry, AIDS Deniers, It’s Only a Headline
- Mission Not Yet Accomplished on Vaccines
- Cigarettes, Now With An Organic Health Halo
- Bee Wary of Tales of the ‘Beepocalypse’
- Pollution and weather influence heart attack outcomes?
- Fish oil diet versus gut microbes
- Naps linked to reduced blood pressure and fewer medications
- Why girls are less interested in computer science: Classrooms are too 'geeky'
- Frogs make irrational choices - and what means for understanding animal mating