Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Six people in blue coats use sticks to search for objects among rocks next to an expanse of ice.

Researchers survey a Norwegian mountain pass, where melting ice has yielded a hoard of items lost or discarded by people travelling centuries ago. Credit: Johan Wildhagen/Palookaville

Archaeology

Vikings’ lost possessions mark a long-hidden early trade route

Exceptionally well-preserved clothing — and even horse dung — line a path that travellers trod for more than 700 years.

A trove of ancient artefacts that melted out of a Norwegian glacier have revealed a route that Vikings and others used for centuries for travel and trade.

James Barrett at the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues surveyed a receding ice patch at Lendbreen glacier, in the mountains of southern Norway. From 2011 to 2015, the researchers collected hundreds of artefacts, including horseshoes, arrows and walking sticks, as well as everyday items such as clothes and shoes.

A wooden stick on a rock outcrop next to an expanse of ice.

This ash rod was found in a mountain pass in Norway. It dates to roughly AD 800 and was probably an implement used in spinning.Credit: Espen Finstad/secretsoftheice.com

The team determined the age of 60 of these objects, and discovered that the Lendbreen pass was used increasingly for both local travel and long-distance trading from around ad 300 to ad 1000. The findings suggest that people crossed the pass in times such as spring and early summer when the rocky terrain was covered by thick snow, which would have made travel with pack horses easier.

After ad 1000, traffic through the pass declined, probably as a result of economic changes, colder winters and, in the fourteenth century, the outbreak of bubonic plague, the researchers say.

More Research Highlights...

Light micrograph of a human egg cell during fertilisation

As a human egg cell is fertilized, two chromosome-containing cellular structures (dotted circles, centre) merge into one — a process that often goes wrong. Credit: Pascal Goetgheluck/Science Photo Library

Developmental biology

The error-prone step at the heart of making an embryo

High-resolution imaging shows why the union between two sets of chromosomes goes awry as least as often as not.
Satellite image of broken iceberg B-44.

Dark water borders chunks of iceberg broken off a West Antarctica glacier. The melting of the region’s ice sheet could allow the bedrock to rise, sloughing water into the ocean. Credit: NASA

Climate change

Antarctic rocks on the rebound could raise sea level much more than expected

When the ice covering the west of the continent disappears, the bedrock could rise up and shove extra water into the ocean.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, Costa Rica

Mist wafts through the trees at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Preserve in Costa Rica. Cloud forests around the world are threatened by development, wood collection and climate change. Credit: Stefano Paterna/Alamy

Conservation biology

Forests that float in the clouds are drifting away

Tropical cloud forests are safe havens for a vast range of creatures and plants, but they are under siege around the globe.
Illustration of a brown dwarf

A rapidly spinning brown dwarf (pictured, artist’s impression) tends to have narrow atmospheric bands; the faster the spin, the thinner the bands. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Astronomy and astrophysics

Dim stars that have failed at fusion are masters of spin

Three brown dwarfs whirl on their axes at a dizzying rate that might be close to the celestial speed limit for these bodies.
Aerial photograph of beef cattle standing at the Texana Feeders feedlot in Floresville, Texas

Large-scale facilities such as this feedlot in Floresville, Texas, help to meet the global appetite for beef and other red meat, which remains strong despite the growing consumption of chicken and fish. Credit: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty

Agriculture

Meat lovers worldwide pay climate little heed

People are eating more poultry and fish — but they’re not giving up their hamburgers.
Midshipmen at dining table eat in formation, CIRCA 1900

Midshipmen in the United States in around 1900. A study found that body-mass index, a gauge of obesity, has increased with the generations during the twentieth century. Credit: Buyenlarge/Getty

Metabolism

A century of US data documents obesity’s racially skewed rise

An analysis also finds that obesity is common at a much younger age among people born in the early 1980s than those born in the late 1950s.
Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing

Search

Quick links