‘Awestruck’ scientists reunite oldest surviving pair of skis after finding second one buried beneath the ice

From left: Dag Inge Bakke (Norwegian Mountain Center), Mai Bakken (Norwegian Mountain Center), Julian Post-Melbye (Museum of Cultural History), Øystein Rønning Andersen (Secrets of the Ice), Runar Hole (Secrets of the Ice), behind Espen Finstad (Secrets of the Ice). (Credits: Andreas Christoffer Nilsson)
From left: Dag Inge Bakke (Norwegian Mountain Center), Mai Bakken (Norwegian Mountain Center), Julian Post-Melbye (Museum of Cultural History), Øystein Rønning Andersen (Secrets of the Ice), Runar Hole (Secrets of the Ice), behind Espen Finstad (Secrets of the Ice). (Credits: Andreas Christoffer Nilsson)

Skis thought to be the oldest surviving pair in the world have been found in Norway… proving that pre-Viking hunters had snow problem getting about 1,300 years ago.

The first of the set was discovered in 2014 — but archaeologists were forced to wait patiently for melting ice to recede further before bagging the second this month.

The wooden skis — complete with matching birch bindings and a leather strap — are said to be the best-preserved ones ever unearthed.

Their owner would have used them to hunt reindeer or travel across mountain trails, and may have left them when caught in an avalanche, say the researchers from Norway’s Secrets Of The Ice project.

The second ski was still deeply embedded when they returned to where its partner was found at Digervarden Ice Patch. But they dug it out with axes after pouring boiling water on the ground. At 74in long and 7in wide, it is larger than the first and better preserved.

The ice covering the ski is chipped away with an ice axe. See SWNS story SWOCskis. A pair of prehistoric skis estimated to be over 1,300 years old have been excavated from an ice patch. The second of the pair was carefully removed this month, after they were both first discovered at Digervarden Ice Patch in Norway in 2014. The discovery of the first pre-Viking ski was made by a group of glacial archaeologists, who waited patiently for the ice to melt enough to claim the second one. They claim is the best-preserved prehistoric pair of skis in the world.
The ice covering the ski is chipped away with an ice axe. (SWNS)

Lars Pilø, co-director of the team, said: ‘I’ve been hoping for this find for seven years.’

‘My colleagues were awestruck’.

Archaeologist Runar Hole and his tour companion Bjørn Hessen made a field check on September 20 and located the ski just five metres from where the first was found.

It was still firmly rooted in the ice and the two did not have the required equipment to safely remove it, so returned six days later with a larger team and more kit.

The glacial archaeologists are on a three-hour hike to reach the find spot of the ski. See SWNS story SWOCskis. A pair of prehistoric skis estimated to be over 1,300 years old have been excavated from an ice patch. The second of the pair was carefully removed this month, after they were both first discovered at Digervarden Ice Patch in Norway in 2014. The discovery of the first pre-Viking ski was made by a group of glacial archaeologists, who waited patiently for the ice to melt enough to claim the second one. They claim is the best-preserved prehistoric pair of skis in the world.
The glacial archaeologists are on a three-hour hike to reach the find spot of the ski. (SWNS)

By the time the group had made their way up Mount Digervarden, they found a fresh new layer of snow masked the ski’s location.

Using the recorded GPS positions and photo from the previous visit they located the artefact, but it was still deeply lodged in the ice which they had to carefully pick away with an axe.

Once the whole length of the ski was visible, the ice below it was melted by pouring lukewarm water over it which had been heated on their gas cookers.

To their joy, they found the second ski to be in even better condition than the first, and found they had identical binding confirming they were a pair.

The best-preserved pair of skis from prehistory at the Norwegian Mountain Center in Lom. The 2014 ski is exhibited in the showcase, the 2021 ski is lying on top of the showcase, nearest the persons. From left: Mai Bakken, Thea Dalen, Dag Inge Bakke (all Norwegian Mountain Center), Espen Finstad (Secrets of the Ice). See SWNS story SWOCskis. A pair of prehistoric skis estimated to be over 1,300 years old have been excavated from an ice patch. The second of the pair was carefully removed this month, after they were both first discovered at Digervarden Ice Patch in Norway in 2014. The discovery of the first pre-Viking ski was made by a group of glacial archaeologists, who waited patiently for the ice to melt enough to claim the second one. They claim is the best-preserved prehistoric pair of skis in the world.
The best-preserved pair of skis from prehistory at the Norwegian Mountain Center in Lom. (SWNS)

At 187cm long and 17cm wide, the second ski is 17cm longer and 2cm wider than the first, better preserved because of it was held deeper in the ice.

It has three twisted birch bindings, a leather strap and a wooden plug that go through the hole in the foothold to help drag them while not in use.

It even has signs of repairs so was well used by the skier.

As they were handmade, the second ski is not identical to the first found in 2014 and have differences in the carvings.

The ski is completely freed from the ice. It is lying with the underside up and the tip towards left. See SWNS story SWOCskis. A pair of prehistoric skis estimated to be over 1,300 years old have been excavated from an ice patch. The second of the pair was carefully removed this month, after they were both first discovered at Digervarden Ice Patch in Norway in 2014. The discovery of the first pre-Viking ski was made by a group of glacial archaeologists, who waited patiently for the ice to melt enough to claim the second one. They claim is the best-preserved prehistoric pair of skis in the world.
The ski is completely freed from the ice. (SWNS)

They are the second and third skis of their kind to be found in the world, the first being a slightly older version found in Mänttä in Finland in 1991.

The Secrets of the Ice program is run as a cooperation between Innlandet County Council and the Museum of Cultural History at the University of Oslo.

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