High in the mountains of Norway lies a narrow pass that was frequented by Vikings 1,000 years ago.
Now, amid the hottest summer on record, ice in the pass has melted, revealing rare artifacts that may have once belonged to the Norse warriors.
“We just made an incredible discovery on the south side of the Lendbreen pass: An iron horse bit, with parts of the leather bridle preserved,” Secrets of the Ice Glacier Archaeology Program said in a Sept. 7 news release on Facebook.
In a video posted by the group, the weathered and rusted items — once used to control horses — can be seen wedged between boulders.
“Finding the leather parts on the bridle, that’s exceedingly rare,” an archaeologist said in the video.
The findings could date to the Viking Age, which spanned from 800 to 1050, according to the National Museum of Denmark. Radiocarbon dating will be conducted to know for certain.
The Lendbreen pass was a well-trodden Viking thoroughfare that would have enabled long distance travel through difficult terrain, according to a 2020 study published in the journal Antiquity.
Over 100 stacks of rocks, known as cairns, have been found demarcating the route. And about 800 other Viking artifacts, including a knife, a shoe and a mitten, have also been located there, according to the study.
Horse-related artifacts have also been found, including “horseshoes, horse bones and horse dung,” the study said.
Horses appeared to have played a central role in Viking culture as evidenced by their frequent discovery in Viking graves, according to a 2019 study published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.
Vikings also may have introduced ambling horses — animals prized for their comfortable gaits — to the rest of Europe, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Current Biology.