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Arctic ice melt reveals ancient artifacts

April 29, 2010 at 5:42 PM   |   Comments

YELLOWKNIFE, Northwest Territories, April 29 (UPI) -- Canadian scientists say they are finding a treasure trove of ancient hunting tools due to the melting of arctic ice that's been in place thousands of years.

Tom Andrews, an archaeologist with the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Center in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, said he is amazed at the implements being discovered.

"We're just like children opening Christmas presents," said Andrews, the lead researcher of the International Polar Year Ice Patch Study. "I kind of pinch myself."

Ice patches are accumulations of annual snow that, until recently, remained frozen all year, Andrews said. For millennia, caribou seeking relief from summer heat and insects have made their way to ice patches where they bed until cooler conditions prevail. Hunters noticed caribou were, in effect, marooned on the ice islands and took advantage of the situation.

Andrews and his team have, so far, found 2,400-year-old spear throwing tools, a 1,000-year-old ground squirrel snare, and bows and arrows dating to 850 years ago.

"I'm never surprised at the brilliance of ancient hunters anymore," Andrews said. "I feel stupid that we didn't find this sooner."

Topics: Tom Andrews
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