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Judi Lynn

(161,041 posts)
Sun Nov 1, 2020, 12:03 PM Nov 2020

Secrets of the ice: unlocking a melting time capsule [View all]

Mike Power
Sun 1 Nov 2020 04.30 EST

Back in August 2018, archaeologists William Taylor and Nick Jarman were scrambling around a snowy, scree-strewn slope in the Altai mountains in northwest Mongolia at the end of an exhausting day. A few hundred metres above Jarman, Taylor and his colleagues were surveying the site, a disappearing ice field that local reindeer herders said had not melted in living memory. Now, each summer, it disappears almost completely.

Taylor looked down the mountain and saw his methodical colleague dancing and hollering, hopping from rock to rock. Thinking he was injured, Taylor headed down the mountain.

“Every time people hear you’re an archaeologist, they want to know the best thing you’ve ever found,” says Jarman, who like his colleague is an assistant professor and curator of archaeology at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History. “I knew what I had found rewrote all those anecdotes.”

There, in crumbling snow, was a perfectly preserved arrow shaft. It was delicately decorated with ochre markings, its carving and features completely protected by the ice even though it was 3,000 years old. Normally, organic items such as this are destroyed by exposure. Jarman instantly found a piece of another arrow shaft. “You can feel when you’re in a hotspot – where everything has come together to allow stuff to be preserved,” he says.


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