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Ten millennia old hunting weapon discovered in melting ice patch

By Devaki

Washington, June 30 (ANI): A University of Colorado at Boulder researcher has discovered a 10,000-year-old wooden hunting weapon in a melting ice patch in the Rocky Mountains close to Yellowstone National Park, US.

According to Craig Lee, a research associate with CU-Boulder's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, the atlatl dart, a spear-like hunting weapon, had been frozen in the ice patch for 10 millennia.

The dart was from a birch sapling and still has personal markings on it from the ancient hunter, said Lee. When it was shot, the 3-foot-long dart had a projectile point on one end, and a cup or dimple on the other end that would have attached to a hook on the atlatl. The hunter used the atlatl, a throwing tool about two feet long, for leverage to achieve greater velocity.

Lee pointed out that climate change has increased global temperatures and accelerated melting of permanent ice fields exposing organic materials that have long been entombed in the ice.

He said: "We didn't realize until the early 2000s that there was a potential to find archaeological materials in association with melting permanent snow and ice in many areas of the globe. We're not talking about massive glaciers, we're talking about the smaller, more kinetically stable snowbanks that you might see if you go to Rocky Mountain National Park."

As glaciers and ice fields continue to melt at an unprecedented rate, increasingly older and significant artifacts - as well as plant material, animal carcasses and ancient feces - are being released from the ice that has gripped them for thousands of years, Lee said.

Over the past decade, Lee has worked with other researchers to develop a geographic information system, or GIS, model to identify glaciers and ice fields in Alaska and elsewhere that are likely to hold artifacts. They pulled together biological and physical data to find ice fields that may have been used by prehistoric hunters to kill animals seeking refuge from heat and insect swarms in the summer months.

Lee said: "In these instances, what we're finding as archaeologists is stuff that was lost. Maybe you missed a shot and your weapon disappeared into the snowbank. It's like finding your keys when you drop them in snow. You're not going to find them until spring. Well, the spring hasn't come until these things started melting for the first time, in some instances, in many, many thousands of years." (ANI)

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