A warm summer in Switzerland recently let archaeologists complete the excavation of Bronze Age artifacts from a site high in the Bernese Alps. The small site is among rocks that are usually covered by a neve, or snow field, beside a glacier near the top of the Lötschberg Pass, or Lötschenpass, at a height of 8,780 feet (2,676 meters) above sea level.
The site was first excavated in 2012, but several years of heavy snow meant that the neve didn't melt enough for archaeologists to finish the dig until September 2017. [Read more about the Bronze Age artifacts found in Switzerland]
Pieces and parts
Fragments of ancient leather and wood were first found in a hollow among the rocks near the top of Lötschenpass in 2011, by the warden of a nearby mountain hut. The pass has been used for centuries as a route between the Bernese Oberland to the north and the Valais region to the south, which borders the north of Italy.
Tools from the past
A team from the Archaeological Service of the Canton of Bern that worked at the site in September found several pieces of curved elm wood that have been identified as the remains of a Bronze-Age bow. The researchers also found strips of ancient leather, and a piece of cord made from animal fiber, attached to a button made of cattle horn.
Among of the wooden fragments of elm wood are end pieces that have been shaped to hold a bow string. Some of the wood and other items in the assemblage have been carbon dated to between 2000 B.C. and 1800 B.C.
The earlier excavation, in 2012, also found large curved pieces of an elm wood bow, as well as three flint arrowheads, pieces of leather, and the remains of a round wooden box.Tests on the box showed it had once held roughly ground dry flour made of several types of grain, including wheat, rye, barley and spelt.
Archaeologist Regula Gubler, of the Bern Archaeological Service, thinks the round wooden box was used to carry dry flour for mixing with water or milk before eating. She said carrying dry flour would be lighter than carrying a finished food product such as bread, and a wooden box would be much lighter than a pottery container, which would have been important considerations for a Bronze Age mountaineer.