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The chronology of reindeer hunting on Norway's highest ice patches.

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Pilø, Lars 
Finstad, Espen 
Ramsey, Christopher Bronk 
Martinsen, Julian Robert Post 
Nesje, Atle 


The melting of perennial ice patches globally is uncovering a fragile record of alpine activity, especially hunting and the use of mountain passes. When rescued by systematic fieldwork (glacial archaeology), this evidence opens an unprecedented window on the chronology of high-elevation activity. Recent research in Jotunheimen and surrounding mountain areas of Norway has recovered over 2000 finds-many associated with reindeer hunting (e.g. arrows). We report the radiocarbon dates of 153 objects and use a kernel density estimation (KDE) method to determine the distribution of dated events from ca 4000 BCE to the present. Interpreted in light of shifting environmental, preservation and socio-economic factors, these new data show counterintuitive trends in the intensity of reindeer hunting and other high-elevation activity. Cold temperatures may sometimes have kept humans from Norway's highest elevations, as expected based on accessibility, exposure and reindeer distributions. In times of increasing demand for mountain resources, however, activity probably continued in the face of adverse or variable climatic conditions. The use of KDE modelling makes it possible to observe this patterning without the spurious effects of noise introduced by the discrete nature of the finds and the radiocarbon calibration process.



alpine travel, climate change, economic intensification, glacial archaeology, historical ecology, reindeer hunting

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R Soc Open Sci

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The Royal Society
Leverhulme Trust (MRF-2013-065)