If the rainfall regime is out of control and sea levels are rising, at least there is a positive side to global warming.
With the melting of glaciers and other areas that were once permanently frozen, long-buried objects are being exposed. Many of these artifacts have invaluable historical value and are in excellent condition as they have been well preserved by ice for decades or even millennia.
However, once some of these items are freed from their icy tombs and exposed to the environment, they quickly decay and disappear. Scientists and archaeologists around the world are racing against time to find and preserve these findings before they are lost. The following list lists 10 recent archaeological discoveries that were only possible due to global warming.
Inspired by scientists who had been able to regenerate wildflowers from 30,000-year-old seeds, two French biologists, Jean-Michel Claverie and Chantal Abergel, wondered if they could do the same with a virus. In what could only be described as science fiction, they were not only able to bring back a frozen 30,000-year-old virus, but also made the virus contagious.
Fortunately for us, this virus only infects amoebas, not humans. It is also incredibly large, almost the size of a bacterium. Even more intriguing is that the virus attacked the host cell differently from most viruses, and was almost empty inside, despite its giant size. This was considered strange by scientists, since viruses often pack as much genetic material as possible in very small spaces.
But you may have a very pertinent question: What if this resurrected virus, to which no human being has been exposed for 30 centuries, can infect humans? Could it kill millions of people who have no natural resistance to it? It sounds crazy, but as more and more glaciers melt, they release all sorts of freezing organic matter. There is simply no telling what may arise. This very undisclosed “side effect” is especially worrying as regards the melting of the ice caps. Soon there will be people inhabiting remote areas in Greenland, for example, that have been frozen for centuries. What will they disturb when they start drilling the ground for natural resources?
About 500 years ago, the Ellesmere Islands region of the Canadian Arctic was covered with some types of moss and lichen. These simple plants were then buried by tons upon tons of ice - and so remained for hundreds of years. That was until recently, when the thick ice sheet melted and the plants emerged.
Scientists who saw these plants growing in what appeared to be melted ice themselves wondered, "Can these plants be alive?" Some of them were brown in color and did indeed appear to be dead. But others were growing again, green. The researchers took samples of these plants and took them to the lab to see if the moss could survive.
To the general surprise, the moss successfully managed to regenerate and grow. Even buried under ice for hundreds of years, these plants remained alive. The implications for scientists are obvious: if glaciers melt and expose enough of these long-dormant plants, they could be used to recolonize regions of colder climates.
During World War I, the region in northern Italy, near the Austrian border, was the scene of intense combat between the Italian forces and the Austro-Hungarian soldiers in what became known as the "White War." At the time, this was one of the most remote and formidable battlefields in the entire conflict. Today, the melting of glaciers in the Alps is revealing the dead and the weapons that were used by the soldiers who fought there.
In 2003, more than 200 World War I ammunition arose from melting ice at an altitude of 3,000 meters in the Trentino region of northern Italy. The soldiers had apparently excavated and built an ammunition stash in a glacier to store explosives. When the ice sheets melted, the ammunition, weighing 10 pounds each, was found on the floor, stacked on top of each other. Soldiers' bodies are also being discovered, still paralyzed in battle, as they froze together where they died.
In the beginning, it was the personal effects of the soldiers emerging from the ice: diaries, pieces of clothing, letters, among others. Now it is the very Italian and Austrian troops that fought each other that are reappearing on the surfaces, seeing the sunlight again.
The Schnidejoch Pass is a route through the alpine mountains of Europe. The route links two valleys of the Alps and has been used for centuries by travelers from Italy wishing to make their way north. Scientists believe that European ancestors have been traveling through Schnidejoch for over 6,000 years.
And since humans have been using this passage for so long, it means that they have already left behind thousands of years of trash. This waste, thanks to the melting of glaciers within and around Schnidejoch Pass itself, is now turning into priceless scientific artifacts.
Recovered objects tend to group at different time periods. Scientists believe the relics correspond to the time periods in which the passage was cleared and people could move about freely. One of these periods produced artifacts associated with the Roman Empire, with objects from about 1,800 years ago. The findings include a belt made to be worn with a Roman tunic, Roman shoe studs, clothes pins and coins. Scientists also believe that the ruins located just a few kilometers from Schnidejoch Pass may have been a Roman settlement or trading outpost.
Taken together, these historical artifacts from different time periods show how glaciers whose extensions advance and recede could open and close the passage for travelers in the past. Looking at the recovered coins, it is hard not to imagine a Roman soldier, far from the warm climate of Italy's Mediterranean region, dropping it while traveling from Italy to northern places that would later become countries such as England or Germany.
The Bronze Age corresponds to a period of civilization in which the development of bronze took place, ranging from approximately 3,300 BC to 600 BC. In 2006, a surprising discovery emerged from a frozen land surface in Lendbreen, Norway. An amateur woodcutter and archaeologist came across a very old but surprisingly well-preserved leather shoe.
When the object was examined and tested by practitioners, archaeologists were absolutely stunned. The shoe was much older than anyone could suppose: it dated over 3,000 years ago, about the same time as Otzi the Iceman - a Bronze Age man found in 1991 in the mountains of northern Italy.
Leather objects are excellent markers for the age of a glacier. When ice melts, leather objects are exposed to the environment and quickly disintegrate. Therefore, when scientists discover ancient leather objects, they know that ice could not have receded before the Leather Age, making the glacier at least as old as this time. The shoe is made of tanned leather and matches our size 37. It is one of the oldest shoes ever found in the world, and the oldest ever discovered in Norway.
The Lendbreen Glacier near Lillehammer, Norway, was once home to many surprising discoveries of well-preserved archaeological artifacts. Earlier, scientists had discovered well-kept horse manure at high altitudes where normally only good reindeer manure can be found. Researchers have also found 1,000-year-old horseshoes nearby.
Not satisfied with just the horse poop, scientists continued their search, arguing that where there are horse droppings and horseshoes there must have been horses. In August 2013, they finally found the skeleton of one of these animals - the first time scientists could find remains of an ancient horse at such a high altitude.
The horse in question was small, similar to those found in Iceland. Scientists theorize that the animal broke its leg and died on the spot. It is now known that people of this period were using horses for transportation. What is still under discussion is whether the reindeer hunters in the area used the horses to transport the reindeer carcasses back to the villages, which were located at the foot of the mountains.
About 2,000 years ago, the Mendenhall Glacier slowly approached a hemlock and spruce forest in the region that today comprises the city of Juneau, Alaska. Ahead of the glacier came the water from the glacial melt, pushing tons of gravel that slowly swallowed the trees, tearing off their branches, but leaving the trees themselves standing and rooted to the ground. Eventually, the gravel came to cover most of the trees and acted as a buffer as the glacier itself approached and eventually covered the forest.
The weight of ice and glacier pressure would normally have crushed the trees. However, gravel has served as a protection for the forest and today, as the glacier melts, the trees are reappearing, many of which are still standing. Not only are a large number of trees intact, many of them still have their bark. This allows scientists to study plants better and to estimate their age more closely. A tree was dated 2,350 years ago.
It is not just horse corpses, ancient hunters and climbers emerging from the melting glaciers of the world. Two recently discovered bodies demonstrate the power of glaciers to take the lives of loved ones and even many years later bring an emotional outcome to those left behind.
In 1979, Jonathon Conville decided to make a major transformation in his life. The former British skydiver had embraced the idea of outdoor living, and one of his challenges was climbing the famous Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. However, during the climb, he and his climbing partner were caught off guard by a storm and were trapped on the north face of the mountain. Conville disappeared, and his partner was rescued by a helicopter.
More than 30 years later, another pilot of a rescue helicopter observed something that did not belong to the mountain. Near the edge of a previously melting place that was melting, he saw what appeared to be human remains. The search team found some climbing equipment and clothing. A label on the garment confirmed what seemed unlikely to many: "Conville." The pathologist who examined the body found searched for living relatives of Conville to inform them that his remains had been found. Her sister was able to recover her body and once again hold the hand of her long lost brother.
In 2010, in Canada, a similar episode occurred on another glacier that revealed the body of another long-lost climber. This time it was an American named William Holland. In April 1989, Holland disappeared during a hike in a dangerous frozen waterfall, located on a mountain called the Snow Dome. Like Conville, Holland died even though his climbing partners survived.
In Holland's case, he got too close to the edge of a frozen cliff that broke. The deadly fall was 305 meters. By the time a regatta team was able to reach the crash site, an avalanche had already buried his body - and so it remained for over a decade. When the adventurer's body was found by climbers in 2010, the melting glacier had preserved it so well that its climbing rope was still wrapped around its body.
Have you ever taken off your coat in a movie theater, put it on the chair next to you, and left, forgetting it there? It was a similar situation that happened around 300 AD, again on the Lendbreen glacier in Norway. Someone took off his kyrtel (some sort of tunic), put it in some corner and left it there. At least this is what scientists work on, because they have concluded that it makes no sense for anyone to leave a warm coat behind in such a cold place.
Perhaps the reason for the attitude was a rare warm, sunny day during which the owner of the tunic took the opportunity to soak up some sunshine and forgot where he left his clothes. Another hypothesis is that the person in question was in the late stages of hypothermia and suffered the strange phenomenon called the “denudation paradox”. This occurs when a person experiences a sudden wave of heat just before freezing to death and takes off their clothes. Did the owner of the tunic have this end? Regardless of how it was lost, the kyrtel was discovered due to ice melting, which released the well-preserved garment for its 1,700-year-old.
Worn over his head, like an Iron Age hoodie, the tunic was made to fit a person about five feet tall. The piece was created from the wool of an adult sheep and a lamb. The two wools each had a different shade of color. The tunic has been changed twice by its user, perhaps in order to make it easier to identify.
You may have heard of Otzi, the surprisingly well-preserved Copper Age man who lived sometime between 3,500 and 3,100 BC. The discovery of this ancient man in 1991, thousands of feet high in the Alpine mountains, and the mystery of who he was and how he lived and died are still being researched by scientists over 20 years later. Less well known, but no less important, is the 16th century man known as "the man of Theodul's passage." Though not as old as Otzi, the man in Theodul's passage has its own enigmatic history.
It all started in 1985, when a ski teacher, Annemarie Julen-Lehner, was walking near the Theodul glacier in Switzerland - a region known to residents as “Lichenbretter” or “slab of corpses” (a nickname justified by stories like it is). Theodul Pass is a dangerous shortcut at 3,350 meters that winds through the mountains that separate Switzerland from Italy. The glacier is full of hidden cracks, so the time a climber spends to avoid them can cost his own life. This was apparently what happened to the man from Theodul Pass.
Julen-Lehner found bones emerging from the ice, and took them to his biologist brother. He immediately recognized the importance of the finding. The bones were from a human being and a mule. Although ice normally preserves bodies, the bones found indicated that they had been exposed to the sun and deteriorated at some point in time. Eventually, Annemarie and her brother found more than just bones and were able to recover bits of the man's skull and even bits of his brain.
Over the next four years, the brothers, along with a team of archaeologists, recovered more clues that helped decipher the identity of the mysterious figure. It turned out, for example, that he was well armed for the trip, as he carried a pistol, a dagger, and even a sword marked with a German blacksmith. In addition, he was wearing a silver amulet with an engraved cross and carrying a glass where you could check the initials “H. THE.". The most significant finding, however, was the more than 90 copper and silver coins the man was carrying. This was the most concrete clue that his remains should be from the last decade of the 16th century.
Until the coins were discovered, archaeologists believed that the man could be Anton Fux, a local citizen who disappeared on the glacier in 1584. However, since the coins are dated 1585 onwards, it could not have been him. The coins, in fact, made it clear that the man from Theodul Pass died some time after 1588 - and also contained more clues as to where he came from. They showed the image of Philip II of Habsburg, who ruled Spain and northern Italy at the time. It is likely that the enigmatic person was of Italian or Spanish descent, traveling the passage north when the tragedy struck.
In considering all the evidence together, archaeologists imagine that the man from Theodul's passage was an Italian mercenary traveling from Italy to Switzerland. Riding his mule, he probably fell into a crevasse and died. There he and the mule were exposed to the environment for many years, until the Little Ice Age settled in Europe in the following century, keeping the remains of man and beast trapped in the glacier. More than 400 years later, when the glacier retreated, the man, his mule and his goods were rediscovered.