Climate change has caused ice to melt in the Lendbreen Mountains, Norway, where the route was found. It was used between 1750 B.C. and 300 A.D.
Global warming and melting ice in the Lendbreen mountains in central Norway have led a group of archaeologists to find traces of the existence of a Viking trade route. According to the study, published this month on Antiquity, the route was probably used for centuries during the Bronze Age, between 1750 B.C. and 300 A.D.
More than 1,000 artifacts have been discovered in the region, including pieces of wool clothing and leather shoes, fragments of sleds, horseshoes, walking sticks, reindeer horns and even traces of butter. The team believes that the objects were transported to European markets and sold there.
“The pass was at its busiest during the Viking Age around 1000 A.D., a time of high mobility and growing trade across Scandinavia and Europe,” study co-author James Barrett, an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge, told the Smithsonian. “This remarkable peak in use shows just how connected even a very remote location was to wider economic and demographic happenings.”
Radiocarbon dates of objects showed that locals used snow cover to pass over the ragged rocks of the mountain range. According to the researchers, from the nearby Otta River, the trading posts were just a few days’ walk in the direction of the water flow. “It may seem counterintuitive, but high mountains sometimes did serve as major communications routes, instead of major barriers,” explained James Barrett to Science.
The age of Lendbreen’s artifacts indicates that the use of the path declined after the Viking Age. For historians, this decline may be linked to a cooling period known as the “Little Ice Age”, or to the Black Death, the 14th-century pandemic that killed between half and two-thirds of the Norwegian population.
“There were also other subsequent pandemics in the late medieval period making the situation even worse,” reported researcher Lars Pilø, an archaeologist in the Department of Cultural Heritage at Innlandet County Council in Lillehammer. “This obviously had a great influence on local settlement and economy, and thus mountain traffic.”
Check out more photos of what was found: