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The Lendbreen Ice Patch

Since 2011, glacier archaeologists have been viewing the Lendbreen ice patch in Norway with much interest. In 1974 already, a student found a Viking Age spear and more objects came to light over the years; mittens, sled remains, even a complete Iron Age tunic from the third or fourth century, and a sword.1

As part of a larger glacier archaeology project in Norway, researchers set up their base camp at the Lendbreen ice patch. They published the results of their study in this month’s issue of Antiquity.2 They reveal that the mountain pass at Lendbreen was a busy place, especially during the Viking Age. Cairns show the way up the mountain, and there is a stone shelter at the top. A great number of textiles, horses and horse-related objects have been found. Objects that reveal the movement of animal food might show that they also used the pass for trade and the movement of livestock.

The researchers conclude that the pass might have been an important trading and communication route within Norway, and possibly for the intercontinental trade as well:

This archaeological record provides new insights into the nature of high-elevation travel in the past, including the changing material and socio-economic factors that influenced it. Far from being barriers or marginal zones, high mountains could also be arteries of intra- and inter-regional communication and exchange.3

Recommended Reading

Secrets of the Ice – the web site of the glacier archaeologists who wrote the article. Wonderful articles and photos. Don’t forget to check out their Youtube channel that includes a helicopter ride to the site.

National Geographic – Has wonderful close-up of the objects. There is also a great story showing how local knowledge actually helps archaeologists to understand the use of objects!

Smithsonian Magazine – Always a strong, well-written story.


  1. Lars Pilø, ‘The Viking Spear from the Lendbreen Ice Patch,’ Secrets of the Ice. Published 29 November 2018. Last Accessed 19 April 2020.
    Marianne Vedeler, Lise Bender Jørgensen, ‘Out of the Norwegian glaciers: Lendbreen – a tunic from the early first millennium AD,’ in: Antiquity, Volumes 87.337 (2013), pp. 788–801.  ↩
  2. Lars Pilø, E. Finstad, & J. Barrett, ‘Crossing the ice: An Iron Age to medieval mountain pass at Lendbreen, Norway.’ Antiquity, Volume 94.347 (2020), pp. 437–454. doi:10.15184/aqy.2020.2  ↩
  3. Lars Pilø, E. Finstad, & J. Barrett (2020), pp. 451.  ↩

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