Unmoving Ice Patches and Instances of Biased Recovery Patterns


  • Julian Robert Post Martinsen Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo




ice patch, glacial archaeology, sorting processes, recovery bias, preservation


The main aim of this study is to investigate the sorting processes that artifacts preserved within ice patches may have been subjected to. This is exemplified by examples from a Norwegian study area. Early research on archaeological ice patches failed to determine whether or not ice patches displayed a static or dynamic internal structure that might create a biased artifact recovery pattern. This review of international literature on the subject aims to throw more light on the formation process of ice patches. Geomorphological and paleoclimatic research are utilized in order to construct a spectrum of sorting processes that exist in and around ice patches. The conclusion is that most ice patches are motionless in their current state. While a motionless ice core will preserve artifacts in the long term, sorting processes may occur during the incorporation of artifacts into the ice core from its margins. Given that physical sorting processes can influence the chronological patterns of archaeological artifacts recovered from ice patches, I further conclude that knowledge of ice patch formation can inform interpretations of the archaeological record of their use as sites of human activity in the past.


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How to Cite

Martinsen, J. R. P. (2016). Unmoving Ice Patches and Instances of Biased Recovery Patterns. Journal of Glacial Archaeology, 2, 51–72. https://doi.org/10.1558/jga.v2i1.27173