Archaeological finds in fast-melting Swiss glacier

Never before has there been so little snow on the largest Swiss glacier in the Alps as this year. A Swiss survey shows that glaciers are melting at an alarmingly fast pace in 2020, but this offers a special opportunity for archaeologists to discover new treasures.

According to the research of the Swiss Academy of Science, the glaciers in the Alps have already lost 2 percent in volume this year. Although this can be compared to the annual decline of the past decade, according to researcher Matthias Huss, this is very worrying.

โ€œ The figures are somewhat lower than the last three years, when we had extremely high temperatures, but still the glaciers lost a lot of mass,โ€ he said, stressing that a loss of 2 percent per year is โ€œreally a lot.โ€ Even more worrying is that on the largest glacier in the Alps, the Aletsch, the snow accumulation reached the lowest level ever this year. According to another study, two thirds to almost all the glacier ice will be melted from greenhouse gas emissions in a century.

Rare traces

The melting of the thousands of years old ice does lead to archaeologists making new discoveries. For example, archaeologists recently found rare traces of hunters and collectors who went in search of crystals in the mountains 9500 years ago. Climate change has thus led to a new area of science: glacier archaeology.

Over the past two decades, special finds have been made in the ice that offer new insights about prehistoric human beings. The archaeologists have to do their work quickly. As soon as the materials are released from the ice, they quickly perish.