Archaeological Finds in Retreating Swiss Glacier

I will write up some notes on the U.S. Climate Change Science Workshop, but I’d like to post up some information on a couple of interesting reports in the past few days on archaeological discoveries in a receding glacier on a high Swiss pass towards Italy, sent in by a reader. Glacier retreat in the hot 2003 summer exposed remains from several distinct periods: from ~ 2800-2500 BC; from 2000-1750 BC; ~150 BC-250 AD; and the MWP up to the 14th/15th Century. I’ve tidied some machine translations from the German to give a gist of the articles; I’ve not tried to figure out the details of the translation as the gist is pretty clear. The archaeologists say that summer temperatures were warmer in these past warm periods. When you see information like this, it really reinforces my doubts about Thompson’s dating of Kilimanjaro, which seems fragile in the extreme.

Die Welte, Nov. 14, 2005 German

Stone Age trade routes yield spectacular finds on alpine pass – clothes, weapons and devices also from Roman time and the Middle Ages

Holger Kroker scientist of the archaeological service Berne found among other things a Roman booklet (garb latch):
In the hot summer of 2003 two wanderers from the Swiss Thun did not trust their eyes. They stood at the edge of an icefield at the Schnidejoch above Lenk, when they discovered a birchbark arrow-quiver. A dating with the archaeological service of the canton Berne showed that the birchbark is nearly 5000 years old. Meanwhile the Bernese archaeologist searched the area thoroughly and found some evidence for a much-used connection between that Bernese upper country and north Italy. The glacier between the today’s ski place Lenk in the north and Sitten, the principal place in the canton Wallis, had released pieces of find from four different epochs. For the archaeologists, the discovery is of comparable importance to Oetzi, the South Tirol glacier corpse.

"Naturally, Oetzi is more sensational", says Peter Suter, Leader of the department of prehistory and early history with the archaeological service in Berne. "However for historical research, these finds from several centuries are just as important." Because they represent not only a snapshot, but as it were a diagram of the settlement and climatic history in the central Alps. The oldest finds are clothing remnants and articles of equipment dated from the Late Stone Age and the epoch between 2800 and 2500 BC. Among them are a birchbark arrow-quiver, some stone arrowheads as well as fragments of Stone Age leather shoes and trousers. The researchers found also particles of human skin as well as skin remnants, which may come from a horse. "One asks oneself, what was a horse doing there?", so Peter Suter.

If DNA investigations confirm the fact that it actually comes from a horse, it could show a completely early form of domestication. A second group of finds originate from the Bronze Age between 2000 and 1750 BC, among them bronze aristocracy and remnants of a splinter box, which obviously served for the transport of goods. From Roman times, a Wollguertel, numerous shoe nails were held together and a booklet from the 1st or early 2nd century AD were found with the dresses. The youngest find is part of a shoe dated to the 14/15th Century.

Afterwards the pass over the Schnidejoch was locked in again by ice and snow until 2003. "These finds are so important, because they reflect the on and starting from the Vergletscherung in the past 10,000 years that we also know from other sources", stressed Peter Suter. For instance from the drill cores of the Greenland glaciers, which serve as climatic archives. For the times from which the finds originate from the Schnidejoch, these drill cores show clear references to warm periods.

Also investigations of researchers of the ETH Zurich on the apron of the Unteraargletschers in the upper Bernese country resulted in strongly varying temperatures in the Alps, into whose attendants the glaciers advanced at times and retreated at times. "Scientific and archaeological findings fit together outstandingly", says Suter. From climatic research, it is well-known that in Europe between the 3rd Millenium and 1750 BC, a mild climate prevailed. The average summer temperatures might have been at that time for 0.5 to two degrees than today. As consequence the pass was passable over the 2756 meters high Schnidejoch in the summer and represented together with that 2000 meters high Simplonpass the shortest connection between north Italy and the Bernese upper country. The large number of finds is for the Bernese experts evidence of traffic movement at that time.

Later climatic degradation in Europe let the glaciers advance again and blocked the way starting from 850 BC to Roman times, the ice masses releasing the pass starting from approximately 150 BC. There are remnants of Roman settlements in the upper Bernese country: a whole row about a temple district in Thun from the first until the third century AD. Also few hundred meters underneath the pass, one found remainders of a Roman lodging. "We always asked ourselves, where it continued, reports from there" Peter Suter, "We know now we that the way led across the Schnidejoch." A climatic degradation accompanied the fall of the Roman realm, so that the pass between Lenk and Sitten became blocked again. In the late Middle Ages, the glaciers withdrew and opened the way for few centuries, but since the Little Ice Age, those again remained blocked from the middle of the 16th to the 19th Century. Only the summer of 2003 changed that and opened the way over the Schnidejoch again. In the meantime, even modern city people can move on the traces of their Late Stone Age ancestors. "The moving way", thus Peter Suter, "was marked in the past summer."

Tages Spiegel, Nov. 16, 2005 German

A glacier near Berne releases finds from the Stone Age – remnants of a forgotten alpine pass
By Michael Zick

"We were simply lucky", say Peter Suter. The boss of the department of pre- and early history of the archaeological service of the canton Berne helped the luck in the last two years purposefully, and so he could announce a small sensation now:

In the mountains between Thuner lake and Rhonetal, he and his aides discovered human belongings from the third millennium BC. The inheritances, remnants of shoes, clothes, an arrow-quiver, originate from the time around 2700 BC. – that is Oetzi era. It had begun in the autumn of 2003 with a hut migration of the married couple Leuenberger from Thun. The mountain climbers had to master the 2756 meters high Schnidejoch. The ice of the Chichli glacier had shrunk in such a way that the way led only across rubble.

In a place, where the ice had only recently melted, Ursula Leuenberger discovered a dark article. Against the advice of her husband, she fastened the strange Fetzen on her backpack and handed it over later to the archaeological service. There one puzzled first: What – was a koecher? How old or rather young was it, because it was well preserved? An exact investigation and dating with C14-Method showed then: The oblong object from together-sewn birchbark, with leather belts tapes, resembled in design and age Oetzi’s quiver from the Austrian-Italian Alps.

The find and discovery site were kept secret from fear of "treasure graves" first. In the following two years, coworkers of the archaeological service looked for the area precisely off. They found approximately 300 further articles at the edge of the ice: Stone Age articles of clothing and arrows, garb needles from the Bronze Age and shoe nails from the Roman period. Suter wants to further-search in the next year "in any case." Particularly the Stone Age artifacts from organic material did it to the archaeologists. They are a truly lucky find. Because the wood -, to leather and textile remainders only kept, because they were covered before scarcely 5000 years rapidly by snow and ice and found very fast now after that to way ropes of the gletschereises. "depending upon size of the pieces", Suter says, " such old organic material only keeps itself for two weeks" if it lies exposed. With the professional search on the forgotten pass, two further larger pieces of the koecher were found, of one contained two flint heads of the arrow. Several arrow shanks from the wood of the snow clenching smoke completed the hunt equipment.

A larger piece phloem network could come from a umhang, as Oetzi put it around the shoulders. Like the wanderer from the Oetztal, Stone Age Swiss wore deer leather trousers sewn with lime tree phloem. The archaeologists constituted repair patch on it still another. From the many other leather bits they could reconstruct a Neolithic shoe including tying volume eyes. Altogether "we have fragments of more than two shoes", reports Suter. Whether these belonged to the footwear of a further traveller over the pass or carried as a pair of reserves, he cannot say.

All this the archaeologists owe to the retreat the glacier in the upper Bernese country, which continues for decades and was accelerated by the particularly hot summer of 2003. However it was still hotter in the third millennium BC. At that time the temperatures in the Swiss Alps were up to two degrees over the today’s. The timber line had climbed substantially, the glacier zone began only at 2700 meters. In the outgoing Stone Age and the early Bronze Age, the inhabitants of central Switzerland used the later completely forgotten Schnidepass, in order to come directly into the Rhonetal. Identical garb needles in graves at the Thuner lake and in the Rhonetal speak for such a direct connection.

After a climatic degradation around 850 BC. then the Romans used this Diretissima again. Starting from 150 BC as occupy over 100 nails of their sandalen in the ice-free mountain rubble. Our ancestors were by far more mobile, than one generally assumes. Oetzi’s stone knife blade originated from the south alpine area of north Italy. From these Lessini alps the desired flint blade were traded also to the Bodensee and after Bavaria, even until Tschechien. Identical tools in Switzerland and in Austria prove Stone Age east west traffic by the Alps. Many archaeological finds occupy the exchange over far areas, perhaps even a regular trade. With the goods also ideas moved – and humans such as Oetzi. The chance to seek out a Swiss ice man estimates Suter as rather small: "the ice was not any longer very thickly there above, we would have already seen it.


  1. John A
    Posted Nov 19, 2005 at 5:10 AM | Permalink

    I can imagine the response: “Yawn. The MWP and Roman Warm Period were North Atlantic climate phenomena only)

    To which I’d reply, “I’d assume these North Atlantic phenomena could be attributable to some natural cause. Would you like to answer what these localized causes could be?”

  2. JerryB
    Posted Nov 19, 2005 at 6:43 AM | Permalink

    Meanwhile in Iceland (from ):

    “It really is not a human-induced situation,” he said. “This glacier is receding from the coast because it advanced to the coast during what is known as the Little Ice Age.

    “Relatively speaking, things have become warmer, but they were warm before the Little Ice Age.”

    Evans says that 300 years ago the coastal land around Breidamerkurjokull was ice-free and used for farming by local people.

    Then, in the early decades of the 18th century, the climate grew colder and giant rivers of ice spread out from the Vatnajokull sheet, including the Breidamerkurjokull glacier.

    These moved miles down to the coast, covering pastures and crushing farmhouses that lay in their path.

  3. John A
    Posted Nov 19, 2005 at 6:47 AM | Permalink

    Re #2:

    “Breidamerkurjokull still has to go quite a long way back yet to get to where it was prior to the Little Ice Age,” said Evans.

  4. Roger Bell
    Posted Nov 19, 2005 at 7:45 AM | Permalink

    There is an interesting story at
    which may have some relation to the Alps findings. The grave of a man, the Amesbury Archer, has been found about 2 miles from Stonehenge. The grave, which is very richly furnished, dates from about 2200 to 2400 BC. The grave of a relative of this man is nearby – they are known to be related from an unusual characteristic of bones in their feet. Oxygen isotope measurements of teeth enamel of the Archer show that as a child he had lived in a climate much colder than that of present day Britain, possibly near the Alps. The metal of a copper knife came from Spain and the gold of some ear rings could have come from Continental Europe.
    This leads to the suggestion that a European elite existed about 5000 years ago.

  5. louis beckers
    Posted Nov 20, 2005 at 8:12 AM | Permalink

    a “pfeilkoecher” is a quiver in english. Birkenrinde is not a place somewhere. It is birch bark.(in “ein Pfeilkoecher aus Birkenrinde”, “aus” means “made of”. The grammatical rule to spell the first letter of a noun in german with an uppercast first character may have further contributed to the error).
    Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

  6. Murray Duffin
    Posted Nov 29, 2005 at 4:20 PM | Permalink

    That works out to about a 900 to 1000 year cycle, with 800-700BC missing. I have to do some digging, but I seem to have seen such a cycle length suggested elsewhere. Murray

  7. Patrick Trombly
    Posted Dec 5, 2006 at 10:32 AM | Permalink

    Here is what I don’t understand about the MWP deniers:

    What is their alternative explanation for all the physical evidence?

    The “local phenomenon” argument really doesn’t gibe. All I can think of there
    is that because the average person on the street knows only about the Vikings and
    the British vineyards and olive trees in Germany that they think they can convince
    those people with that disingenuous brush-off.

    But the argument can’t be taken seriously, since the evidence isn’t at all limited
    to the North Atlantic.

    I’ve never hear the Mann crowd offer an alternative explanation for the myriad events
    that took place between 1000-1300 AD that have since they occurred been attributed to
    warm temperatures and clearly indicate warmer temperatures than today.

    It’s not just a choice between extrapolations from tree ring widths and tree lines – – if I were
    going to go with the tree ring widths, I would never advance that conclusion without first
    having an explanation for why the tree lines were higher than today. The record of what
    grew when and where, what harbors and inlets were iced over for what part of the year, is pretty
    clear. How did some warm weather plants grow where they don’t today?

    Mann does make a feeble attempt with respect to one plant, wine grapes, which grew in England.
    He points out that there are vineyards in England today. Sure, and there is a vineyard in Nashoba
    Valley, Massachusetts. But they don’t grow the same varieties of grapes, using the same methods, as
    is the case in the south of France! And in Medieval Britain, they did! Just the fact that they
    STARTED vineyards at a time when landowners’ primary asset was the land and its produce, when they kept
    their lands only by paying a duty out of the profit made through selling the produce, and when there
    was almost no access to credit and the capital outlay required for a vineyard was very high, all of
    which meaning that devoting acreage to wine grapes was a large investment with a high opportunity
    cost, which people wouldn’t undertake on a whim.

    And this explanation, pathetic as it is, is the only MWP example that Mann addresses.
    If we’re to infer that the only answer to each example is a “local” warming, and we
    apply that explanation to each event from around the globe, that’s tantamount to an admission,
    isn’t it?

    But I won’t infer an argument from the MWP deniers where one isn’t offered. I’ll just point out
    that it’s kind of like arguing that Washington didn’t in fact cross the Delaware without producing
    an alternative theory as to how he wound up on the other side. Until someone produces that alternative
    theory, he crossed the Delaware. Until they explain away the physical evidence, it wouldn’t matter
    to me if you folks HADN’T found problems with the models and the cherry-picking of proxy data – –
    the MWP happened and was warmer than today because the physical record is clear that innumerable
    events occurred around the globe for which there is no other rational explanation than warmer

  8. Posted May 31, 2007 at 11:56 AM | Permalink

    Err, pardon my ignorance, but how do you know these weren’t simply the result of people falling into crevasses? This happens all the time on glaciers, and crevasses form and close all the time. Why do we need to posit that the whole thing melted?

  9. Dave B
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 12:36 PM | Permalink


    yes, that is possible. maybe even “plausible”. what about evidence of horses in glaciated mountain passes? most people who fall into glaciers are in the mountains for recreational purposes. this, of course, does not rule out an occasional hunter falling into a crevasse. usually, the middle of a mountain pass is not a heavily crevassed area, and also a relatively flat section. this lends evidence to the idea of things covered by advancing glaciers, rather than falling into a cevasse.

  10. jae
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 12:39 PM | Permalink

    8: I don’t think there would be much left of a person who fell into a crevasse after a couple hundred years. He would be reduced to paste by the glacier’s movement in no time.

  11. woodentop
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 3:06 PM | Permalink

    #8, I remember reading a book about Oetzi, the ice-man mentioned in the original article. It would appear from the archaelogical evidence found on the well preserved body, thought to be lying in the same rock hollow where he had fallen (probably as the result of a wound), that there was trade and travel between what is now Italy and Austria across the pass where he was found. Until fairly recently, it was practically impassable except to those with modern clothing and equipment. This suggests natural cycles of warming and cooling, posited to be around 1500+/-500 years. See this recent offering, which incidentally cites LOTS of papers on the global nature of this phenomenon.

  12. Filippo Turturici
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 4:18 PM | Permalink

    We know very well that Alpine glaciers mainly formed during Little Ice Age, and that almost none of it (just small parts of nowadays major glaciers) existed during Medieval Warm Period or during the rise of Roman Empire.
    And that both the rescue of Europe from Dark Centuries and the expansion of Rome were greatly helped by warmer climate.
    And that Venice lagoon never had a major freezing event for 2 centuries near the year 1,000 (4 such events in XXth century, 10-12 in XVIIIth).
    And that it is a nonsense to say “also today we got vineyards in England” for at least two reasons: we are talking of Middle Ages, not of modern agricultural techniques and technologies; vineyards today are cultivated just in a small south-eastern region of the island, not far north as to Scotland Lowlands, it would be as considering Italin climate from Sicily or US weather from Florida.
    And that, for the same reasons, there were once olive trees in Germany, or ice-free areas in Greenland large and mild enough to settle, or so few ice along Newfoundland coast to found a colony (we are now in June and such coast is today still mainly frozen).
    And that it is a very small chance that all the area from North Pole to Urals to Rocky Mountains was very warmer than any decade we have lived, without at least all the Northern Emisphere being at least a bit warmer than today.
    And that alpine glaciers are retreating since 1850, with 3 main retreats: 1850-1880, 1920-1950, 1980-today; and that it was in the XIXth century that the most part of glacial mass was lost, with retreats up to 1km/0.6mil of glacial front in a pair of decades, and that last glacial retreat is the last not only for time but also for lost mass (simply because we have little to save, we might say: but, I have a guide to my region dating to ’60ies where local glaciers are described as very small and almost disappearing in the previous decades – most part of them is still very small but also still alive).
    But who cares?

  13. Filippo Turturici
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 4:24 PM | Permalink

    #11: higher alpine passes, like Stelvio, were closed 2 days ago for heavy snow falls (snow fell down to 1,000-1,500m/3,300/5,000ft); even in 2006, we had snow until early June on the Alps; and we are talking of areas that today are still glaciers, not of passes with paved roads but opened only during summer (and which usually see at least a snowfall even in July).

  14. Steve Sadlov
    Posted May 31, 2007 at 4:32 PM | Permalink

    There is an American film “The Italian Job” where there is a key scene filmed in an area that is supposed to be at the Italian – Swiss or Italian – Austrian border. Based on the way the area looked, I think it really was filmed there. Quite a stark landscape – above tree line, snow and ice everywhere, strangely attractive. (Of course, for those who saw this film, the result in that scene was anything but attractive! …. on the contrary, it was tragic)

  15. Filippo Turturici
    Posted Jun 1, 2007 at 4:16 AM | Permalink

    #14: Steve, are you talking about the recent film with Donald Sutherland, or the older one with Michael Caine?

  16. Gaudenz Mischol
    Posted Jun 1, 2007 at 5:56 AM | Permalink


    I give you some more hints

    there were about 300 objects found on this “new pass”
    those objects were found scattered all along the pass
    they dated back to several periods: MWP, Roman Period and even further back
    the objects were defenitely not suitable for climbing over glaciers, ice and snow

    so all these hints make it not “very plausible” that those people just fell into crevasses

    in a small town north to this pass, called Thun, many years ago the fundaments of a roman villa was found, far off all known roman streets. So this new pass might be an explanation why the villa was there.

  17. Jeff Norman
    Posted Jun 1, 2007 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

    Re: #14 Steve Sadlov,

    (Of course, for those who saw this film, the result in that scene was anything but attractive! …. on the contrary, it was tragic)

    Yes, they magically didn’t die from exposure.

  18. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Jun 1, 2007 at 11:03 AM | Permalink

    RE: #15 – the new one, with Sutherland.

  19. Robert McConnell
    Posted Jun 1, 2007 at 11:32 AM | Permalink

    Human artifacts, and occasional remains, have been popping out of melting ice patches on the mountain slopes of the southern Yukon for the last decade – Google ‘ice patch artifacts’ to get a whole pile of references. The artifacts have been carbon-dated to roughly 1,000, 4,000 and 8,000 years BP. At those times the climate was warmer, there was no perma-ice in the hollows, and there were a lot more caribou around, with hunters in hot pursuit. (Warmer climate = more caribou. Whodathunkit?) The archaeologists and anthropologists are interested in this, but I haven’t seen any reference to it from climate scientists. There’s probably an interesting paleoclimatology study to be done just from reviewing the artifact dating and the anthropology observations that follow from it.

  20. jae
    Posted Jun 1, 2007 at 12:23 PM | Permalink

    19: the folks at RC will use bender’s double standard #xx to claim that, while the current warming is a global phenomonen, the past warmings evidenced in the Yukon were “localized events.”

  21. Filippo Turturici
    Posted Jun 2, 2007 at 5:53 AM | Permalink

    #18: seen it time ago, I think I might not remember it so well, but I would find it just magic as landscape 🙂
    But Jeff, #17, that was not surely the worst thing: in movies, we are used to people who walk at -40°C without gloves and cap, maybe also with the wind-cheater opened (try just -10°C with wind…) or who never sweat in places like Bangkok or Hong Kong, or to noise in space etc.

  22. Filippo Turturici
    Posted Jun 2, 2007 at 6:01 AM | Permalink

    During late stone age and early bronze age (say about 3,000-2,000 b.C.) it is almost sure that sea levels were higher than today, but also than other historical periods: during following centuries, as result of cooling, sea retreat made available to human settlements many sites on the coast (e.g. Peter Salway’s chapter “Roman Britannia”, in Kenneth O. Morgan’s “Illustrated history of Britain”).
    Also, during MWP sea levels of Mediterranean were higher than nowadays (it is really strange that World should not be warmer then…) and some small lagoon and coastal marsh in North-Eastern Italy was just a remainder of that era.

  23. Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 1:26 PM | Permalink

    The paper was published in the February 2007 JQS and the abstract states that, The preservation of Neolithic leather indicates permanent ice cover at that site from ca. 4900 cal. yr BP until AD 2003, implying that the ice cover was smaller in 2003 than at any time during the last 5000 years. Current glacier retreat is unprecedented since at least that time. This is highly significant regarding the interpretation of the recent warming and the rapid loss of ice in the Alps.’

    Rapid Communication

    Ice-borne prehistoric finds in the Swiss Alps reflect Holocene glacier fluctuations

    Martin Grosjean 1 *, Peter J. Suter 2, Mathias Trachsel 1, Heinz Wanner 1
    1NCCR Climate and Institute of Geography, Bern, Switzerland2Archaeological Survey Canton Bern, Bern, Switzerland
    email: Martin Grosjean (

    *Correspondence to Martin Grosjean, NCCR Climate, University of Bern, Erlachstrasse 9a, 3012 Bern, Switzerland.

    Grosjean, M., Suter, P. J., Trachsel, M. and Wanner, H. 2007. Ice-borne prehistoric finds in the Swiss Alps reflect Holocene glacier fluctuations. J. Quaternary Sci., Vol. 22 pp. 203-207. ISSN 0267-8179.

    archaeology ‘€¢ glaciology ‘€¢ climate change ‘€¢ global warming ‘€¢ Switzerland

    During the hot summer of 2003, reduction of an ice field in the Swiss Alps (Schnidejoch) uncovered spectacular archaeological hunting gear, fur, leather and woollen clothing and tools from four distinct windows of time: Neolithic Age (4900 to 4450 cal. yr BP), early Bronze Age (4100-3650 cal. yr BP), Roman Age (1st-3rd century AD), and Medieval times (8-9th century AD and 14-15th century AD). Transalpine routes connecting northern Italy with the northern Alps during these slots is consistent with late Holocene maximum glacier retreat. The age cohorts of the artefacts are separated which is indicative of glacier advances when the route was difficult and not used for transit. The preservation of Neolithic leather indicates permanent ice cover at that site from ca. 4900 cal. yr BP until AD 2003, implying that the ice cover was smaller in 2003 than at any time during the last 5000 years. Current glacier retreat is unprecedented since at least that time. This is highly significant regarding the interpretation of the recent warming and the rapid loss of ice in the Alps. Copyright ⧠2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

    Received: 26 September 2006; Revised: 24 December 2006; Accepted: 3 January 2007

  24. Steve Sadlov
    Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 1:35 PM | Permalink

    RE: #23 – Make that “during the last five thoussssaaannndddd yyyyyeeeearrrrsssssss!”

  25. Filippo Turturici
    Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 4:00 PM | Permalink

    #23: that is precisely why I feel so difficult to believe in AGW, and overall that “scientists” could make such a theory remaining “scientists”.
    Are glaciers “fixed and motionless”? Not at all, they continue to grow or to retreat, moving upward and downward, moving their own ice but also the terrain where they are based, covering and uncovering, creating lakes or occupying valleys etc.
    Moreover, some kinds of muddy terrain can preserve bodies and tools as well as ice, and even without needing to freeze.
    So, if we found reperts from 5,000bC to 1,400AD, should the glacier be at its smallest extent since 7,000 years? But all the Roman and Medieval tools, were placed there millennia before they were made? This is simply a non-sense!
    And in the end: “This is highly significant regarding the interpretation of the recent warming and the rapid loss of ice in the Alps.” what does it mean? That 7,000 years ago factories and machines were emitting CO2 and changed climate?!?

  26. Filippo Turturici
    Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 4:05 PM | Permalink

    #25: or that during the largest ice mass loss, 1850-1880, greenhouse effect was so strong (but maybe only in the Alps)? Or that during the second largest ice mass loss, 1920-1950, such effect was equal or even greater than today? Because, to be people who study Alps glaciers, they seem to completely forget that contemporary glaciers melt is happening on glaciers already melting since 1850, many of them already reduced to their historical minimum before 1960, and overall that much greater losses in glacial mass (it is true for melting velocity too) happened before we begin to pollute the World so much.
    So, or they do mean nothing, or their phrases are the usual AGW stuff.

  27. Curt
    Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 7:41 PM | Permalink

    #23: The abstract strongly implies that leather remains could not have survived an early uncovering. I don’t have access to the full paper — does it go into more depth on this issue, or is it just an assumption? Since they found such remains from 5 separated (presumably warm) historical periods, if this assumption holds, then each warming period would have to have been a little less warm than the previous one, so that artifacts from any previous warm period were not uncovered, but still warm enough to permit some travel through the pass. Does this make sense to you?

  28. Alan Woods
    Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 8:11 PM | Permalink

    Re #23…27.

    The critical point in the context of this paper is that leather
    requires permanent embedding in ice in order to stay preserved
    and, as it is observed today, deteriorates very quickly if exposed
    at the surface. In consequence, the finds at Schnidejoch suggest
    permanent ice cover at that site for the last 5000 years, more
    specifically from ca. 3000 BC until AD 2003. At first glance our
    conclusion differs from the conclusions drawn from exposed
    trees in the forefields of melting glacier tongues (Jo⦠rin et al.,
    2006). However, the conclusions by Jo⦠rin et al. (2006; see also
    by Hormes et al., 2006) refer to the AD 1985 level:glaciers in
    the Grimsel [and Alpine] area were smaller than at 1985 AD
    during several times for the last 5000 years’; while our
    conclusion reads: in the year of 2003 AD, the ice field at
    Schnidejoch has reached the smallest extent since the last
    5000 years’.
    This is not a contradiction. We argue that this difference is
    explained by the dissimilar response lags of the two types
    of archives compared: ice mass balance near the ELA
    (Schnidejoch) responds immediately to sub-decadal climate
    variations, while Alpine glacier tongues respond with a
    multi-decadal lag to climatology (20’€”60 years (Jo⦠rin et al.,
    2006); importantly this fact also applies to the study by Hormes
    et al. (2006)). Differences between the equilibrium states of fast
    and slowly responding climate archives are typically large
    during phases of rapid changes. Indeed while the ice field at
    Schnidejoch is in equilibrium with the state of the atmosphere
    of the most recent years, the glacier tongues have not yet
    fully responded to the excessively warm years of the last
    15 years, when (1) solar radiation at the Earth’s surface has
    increased owing to brightening of the atmosphere (globally
    6.6Wm2 10 yr1 between 1992 and 2002, Swiss Plateau
    7.2Wm2 10 yr1; Wild et al., 2005), (2) anthropogenic
    greenhouse forcing with related strong water vapour feedback
    enhanced the downward longwave radiation in Europe
    (à¾1.18Wm1 yr1, data 1995’€”2002; Philipona et al., 2005)
    which increased temperatures, and (3) negative trends in the
    specific mass balance of Alpine glaciers accelerated (Zemp,
    Obviously the underlying mechanisms for the current ice
    retreat are very different from those during the mid-Holocene
    (6 kyr BP), when Milankovich forcing at 478 N alone accounted
    for à¾25Wm2 (summer) and 15Wm2 (winter; Berger,
    1978) compared with today (Fig. 3(D)). Also the role of solar
    irradiance may have played a role (Holzhauser et al., 2005, and
    references therein).

  29. MrPete
    Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 8:40 PM | Permalink

    #24, you forgot to include Dr Evil 👿 — just takes a colon, evil, colon…

  30. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jun 21, 2007 at 8:48 PM | Permalink

    Other relevant posts on Alps stratigraphy include 772, 773 and 774. The movement of material engulfed in alpine glaciers is quite complicated. Hormes in various studies notes that objects (fossil wood especially) from different periods has merged in sediments at the same stratigraphic level. THere is a real need for careful geological mapping of all finds – in Thompson’s articles, if there is such mapping, it is not reported.

  31. Filippo Turturici
    Posted Jun 22, 2007 at 2:32 AM | Permalink

    It seems to me like the Geophisyc Research Letters, which stated a few days ago that winter 2007 was the warmest ever since winter 1289 in the Alpine area and in all Europe.
    What’s the matter? Other very mild winters for Alps and Europe, between 1289 and 2007, and very similar to these two, were (at least): 1505, a series of winters around 1530, 1607, 1788 and 1817.

  32. Steve S
    Posted Oct 30, 2008 at 1:34 AM | Permalink

    I would like to hear more about evidence of glacier melting in the MWP period, elsewhere in the world. After all, if glaciers melted as much then as they have now, then, regardless of the cause of current temperatures, that would reassure me (and no doubt other casual inquirers) that there is nothing “exceptional” about the current earth climate.

    It seems clear that this is the case in Europe. How well can it be demonstrated elsewhere? I am aware of that book about the 1500 year cycle, but I’ve read so much about temperature proxies that I’d like to step back from them and look at something I can relate to (what the heck do I know about marine sediment and tree rings — nothing) — hence, glaciers.

  33. Posted Feb 10, 2010 at 5:42 PM | Permalink

    Check this out, scientist Morten Rasmussen just sequenced the entire human genome of a 4000 year old Intuit man:

  34. Val
    Posted Sep 5, 2010 at 12:26 AM | Permalink

    Well you know the reason why they find evidence of warmer climates that existed on Earth thousands of years ago? It was those damn Mayans and their SUVs creating global warming which eventually wiped them all out.

    Seriously though, the heating and cooling of the Earth is a cyclical event. Science has proven that the planet has heated and cooled numerous times; causing droughts, floods, submersion of land masses, exposure of land masses, periods where there was no ice, and periods where the planet was half frozen. None of which was caused by humans. These changes often came rapidly and have caused indigenous people to migrate or change their lifestyles to compensate for the weather changes. In some extreme cases, it has resulted in the deaths of certain groups of people who were unable to adapt or relocate in time.

    I remember reading an article in 2005 where scientists found an area near the Arctic where melting ice had revealed grass that had been flash frozen over 25,000 years ago. Some scientists also argue that we are over-due for another ice age, and that such an event can occur with little to no warning, and could likely happen at any time. Taking into consideration the recent lack of sun spot activity and that the winter of 2009-2010 resulted in record low temperatures for much of North America, Europe and Asia, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next ice age happens sooner than later.

  35. Chris Shaker
    Posted Feb 27, 2012 at 4:24 PM | Permalink

    There are many scientific papers detailing temperatures reconstructed from the Medieval Warm Period, proving that temperatures were as warm or warmer than today. Evidence appears to be world wide that warm temperatures existed for about 500 years.

    AGU published research paper, “Evidence for a ‘Medieval Warm Period’ in a 1,100 year tree-ring reconstruction of past austral summer temperatures in New Zealand”. Looks like it had world wide effect.

    Click to access CookPalmer.pdf

    Sequoias endured 500 years of fiery drought during the Medieval Warm Period, tree rings show

    Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Examines 2,000 years of sediment records for temperature reconstruction
    “A new 2,000-year-long reconstruction of sea surface temperatures (SST) from the Indo-Pacific warm pool (IPWP) suggests that temperatures in the region may have been as warm during the Medieval Warm Period as they are today.”
    “Water temperature during the late Medieval Warm Period, between about A.D. 1000 to 1250, was within error of modern annual sea surface temperatures. (Oppo, Rosenthal, Linsley; 2009)”

    Found another interesting page about sediment record analysis at Woods Hole, covering the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age

    “Events warmer than today occurred about 500 and 1,000 years ago, during the Medieval Warm Period, and it was even warmer than that prior to about 2,500 years ago.”
    “Because the Sargasso Sea has a rather uniform temperature and salinity distribution near the surface, it seems that these events must have had widespread climatic significance. The Sargasso Sea data indicate that the Medieval Warm Period may have actually been two events separated by 500 years, perhaps explaining why its timing and extent have been so controversial. Second, it is evident that the climate system has been warming for a few hundred years, and that it warmed even more from 1,700 years ago to 1,000 years ago.”

    This graph of the Sargasso Sea Surface Temperature, reconstructed from sediment cores, shows what they are talking about

    There is a ton of data on reconstructed temperatures around the world from the Medieval Warm Period at the Woods Hole web page. Go there and search for ‘Medieval Warm Period’

    Paper offering high resolution temperature proxy data from an Alaskan lake over the past 6,000 yrs, derived from midge analysis on the sediments. Shows temperatures there were higher in the past 3,000 yrs than today
    “Although the Moose Lake TJuly record displays an increasing trend over the past 150 years, the TJuly values in several warm intervals of the past 6000 years were comparable to or exceeded early 20th-century values. For example, the TJuly values during the MCA were generally higher than the early 20th-century values (Fig. 4C). ”

    Click to access Clegg_et_al_2010.pdf

    Evidence for the existence of the medieval warm period in China
    The collected documentary records of the cultivation of citrus trees andBoehmeria nivea (a perennial herb) have been used to produce distribution maps of these plants for the eighth, twelfth and thirteenth centuries A.D. The northern boundary of citrus andBoehmeria nivea cultivation in the thirteenth century lay to the north of the modern distribution. During the last 1000 years, the thirteenth-century boundary was the northernmost. This indicates that this was the warmest time in that period. On the basis of knowledge of the climatic conditions required for planting these species, it can be estimated that the annual mean temperature in south Henan Province in the thirteenth century was 0.9–1.0°C higher than at present. A new set of data for the latest snowfall date in Hangzhou from A.D. 1131 to 1264 indicates that this cannot be considered a cold period, as previously believed.”

    Greenland recently incurred record high temperatures and ice loss by melting, adding to concerns that anthropogenic warming is impacting the Greenland ice sheet and in turn accelerating global sea-level rise. Yet, it remains imprecisely known for Greenland how much warming is caused by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases versus natural variability. To address this need, we reconstruct Greenland surface snow temperature variability over the past 4000 years at the GISP2 site (near the Summit of the Greenland ice sheet; hereafter referred to as Greenland temperature) with a new method that utilises argon and nitrogen isotopic ratios from occluded air bubbles. The estimated average Greenland snow temperature over the past 4000 years was −30.7°C with a standard deviation of 1.0°C and exhibited a long-term decrease of roughly 1.5°C, which is consistent with earlier studies. The current decadal average surface temperature (2001–2010) at the GISP2 site is −29.9°C. The record indicates that warmer temperatures were the norm in the earlier part of the past 4000 years, including century-long intervals nearly 1°C warmer than the present decade (2001–2010). Therefore, we conclude that the current decadal mean temperature in Greenland has not exceeded the envelope of natural variability over the past 4000 years, a period that seems to include part of the Holocene Thermal Maximum. Notwithstanding this conclusion, climate models project that if anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions continue, the Greenland temperature would exceed the natural variability of the past 4000 years sometime before the year 2100.

    Chris Shaker

  36. Brian H
    Posted Sep 3, 2013 at 2:42 AM | Permalink

    Really impressive! Roman shoe nails in the coffin of the AGW early history narrative. Archaeology de luxe.

    • kim
      Posted Sep 3, 2013 at 6:54 AM | Permalink

      I really like ‘the wood of the snow clenching smoke’.

8 Trackbacks

  1. […] ‘Archaeological Finds in Retreating Swiss Glacier’ […]

  2. By Antartic ice not melting at amazing speed on Sep 10, 2012 at 1:29 AM

    […] […]

  3. […] glacier in Switzerland which shows that the area was once much warmer and traversed by humans. So, just maybe, the earth has been warmer in the past than it is now, which means that a tax on […]

  4. […] […]

  5. […] He was found with many of his hunting implements and clothing. But not as many people have heard of Schnidejochzi. This is because, well, I made him up. Actually, this may be the name given to this hunter, if his […]

  6. […] […]

  7. […] […]

  8. […] […]

%d bloggers like this: