Archaeologists Find Norwegian Reindeer Hunting Tools

January 29, 2018 | Matt

As ice in Norway melts, it is revealing archaeological curiosities of historical significance. The retreating ice is sending archaeologists into overdrive, as they must scramble to find these artifacts before air exposure damages or destroys them.

So far, researchers have stockpiled about two thousand such pieces of history. Most significantly, they have found a great number of iron and bone-tipped arrows that were used by ancient peoples to kill reindeer, as well as walking sticks and shoes used by the hunters. They provide clues that have given us a better idea of what life was like for Norwegians in the distant and not-as-distant past.

Artifacts were being deposited in Norway’s mountainous regions all the way through the 14th century, and beyond. The oldest artifacts date to around six thousand years ago, with the most recent dating to around the 1300’s.

Norwegian reindeer typically stick to ice-covered ground during the summer. It’s a behavior that likely evolved to reduce infections from parasites. Hunters, observing this tendency, focused their hunting on areas with ice patches. The reindeer they killed were used not only for food, but also to make antler tools.

The hunting artifacts start winnowing down around the time the Vikings descended from power. Researchers speculate that this is due to people killing large quantities of reindeer with pitfall traps instead of bow and arrow.

Around the 1400s, hunting artifacts dropped precipitously, as people in the area reeled from the Boubonic Plague. Shortly thereafter, firearms were invented.

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