Best-Preserved Ancient Skis Turn Up — Where Else? — in Norway

On September 20 of this year, a field archaeologist spotted what looked like a wooden plank on Mount Digervarden in southern Norway. Since this was the same site where researchers discovered a beautifully preserved, 1,300-year-old ski in 2014, everyone was excited. This was likely its mate.

At first, severe weather blocked any attempt to free the ski. A team of archaeologists and a filmmaker documenting the find went to the ice patch and successfully liberated the pre-Viking ski on September 26, 2021.

With this latest operation, the archaeologists have unearthed the best-preserved set of prehistoric skis ever discovered.

The previously missing ancient ski will join its match, discovered back in 2014

The ancient ski will join its mate, discovered back in 2014. Image: Glacier Archaeology Program/Secrets of the Ice

Both skis were in remarkable condition

The ski recovered back in 2014 gained notoriety in archaeological circles for being extremely well intact. But September’s dig revealed a specimen in even more remarkable condition. That second ski was so well-preserved that its bindings and lash points remained fully intact. The archaeologists even noticed signs of an ancient repair job.

The new ski spans 187cm from tip to toe — about the length of a modern cross-country ski. But its 17cm width made it a bit wider than even the fattest contemporary downhill ski. The deck is solid birch wood and features a raised foothold with a primitive birch binding, wooden plug, and leather strap.

team of norwegian archaeologists set out to find one of two ancient skis

The Norwegian archaeological team returns from exhuming the second of two ancient skis on September 26, 2021. Image: Glacier Archaeology Program/Secrets of the Ice

Clues to the past

The team traverses the Digervarden ice patch on Sept. 26, 2021. Image: Glacier Archaeology Program / Secrets of the Ice

The archaeological team traverses Mount Digervarden on Sept. 26, 2021. Image: Glacier Archaeology Program / Secrets of the Ice

 

While it remains unclear exactly how prehistoric humans used the skis, additional discoveries on the Digervarden ice patch point to mountaineering, hunting, or both.

[D]uring the recovery of the ski, the team noted the presence of several cairns in the area. They may belong to an ancient mountain trail crossing the ice patch near the find spot of the skis. We found an 18th century sled in roughly the same area in 2016. This opens the possibility that the skis could be related to high mountain transport as well. So we do not know whether the owner was a hunter or a traveler (or both).

Read the team’s full report here. You can follow the Glacier Archaeology Program’s latest discoveries on secretsoftheice.com and @secretsoftheice on Instagram. Watch their short documentary on the skis, below.

Jilli grew up in the rural southern Colorado mountains, later moving to Texas for college. After seven years in corporate consulting, she was introduced to sport climbing. In 2020, Jilli left her corporate position to pursue an outdoor-oriented life. She now works as a contributor, an editor, and a gear tester for ExplorersWeb and various other outlets within the AllGear network. She is based out of Austin, Texas where she takes up residence with her climbing gear and one-eared blue heeler, George Michael.


Subscribe
Notify of
guest
1 Comment
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Lenore Jones
Lenore Jones
5 months ago

Very, very cool!