Seven years after finding a single wooden ski dating to the Iron Age, archaeologists have found the ski that completes the pair. The skis emerged from the ice at the Digervarden ice patch in western Norway, a hotbed for glacial archaeology. As glaciers in the area recede, they leave behind an astonishing array of artifacts, some incredibly well preserved. Leather shoes, hunting tools, and clothing have all been found, not to mention bones and hair.

And skis.

The ski found recently is 74 inches long and 7 inches wide, with a raised platform where the skis would fit on the foot, with binding elements—leather straps and birch bark twine—found with the ski.

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“The skis are not identical, but we should not expect them to be,” Lars Pilø, an archaeologist with the Glacier Archaeology Program (GAP) in Norway, explains. “The skis are handmade, not mass-produced. They have a long and individual history of wear and repair before an Iron Age skier used them together and they ended up in the ice.”

Bits of skis that are far older—as much as 6,000 years old—have been discovered by archaeologists before, but no skis this ancient and this well-preserved have yet been found.

Scientists long assumed that pre-historic people largely avoided higher elevation terrain in winter conditions but so many artifacts are emerging from places previously thought to be too harsh for people thousands of years ago suggest that humans have been moving through and in snowy alpine environments far longer than we thought.

Read more at Secrets of the Ice, the blog maintained by Pilø.


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