Treasure trove of 4,000-year-old Bronze Age artefacts found on Swiss mountain pass after snow melt

The mountain pass has been in use since at least 2,000 years BC.

Archaeological excavations at the site of the Lötschberg Pass.Archaeological Service of the Canton of Berne/Kathrin Glauser

A 'treasure trove' of 4,000-year-old artefacts, including flint arrowheads and what may be a leather bag, has been discovered by archaeologists on a Swiss mountain pass in the canton of Bern.

A hot summer in the region this year, in addition to a lack of snow last winter meant that the items were left exposed, enabling the researchers to examine the Bronze Age items.

The Lötschberg pass, which at its highest point is 2,700 metres above sea level, has provided archaeologists with numerous intriguing discoveries in recent times.

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In 2011, a guardian of a cabin on the pass alerted cantonal authorities to the presence of various objects which had also been uncovered by snow melting.

And in the summer of 2012, several more items were extracted for investigation in the vicinity of the 2011 excavation site. However, during the next four summers, the area remained under snow making further investigations impossible.

In addition to the arrowheads and small pieces of leather, the recent haul includes bow fragments, a wooden box containing roughly ground flour, string made from animal fibres and a container made from cow horns.

It is thought that the considerable number of leather fragments could have come from a backpack-style bag, which would be an unprecedented find for a Bronze Age item, if confirmed.

The objects have all been carbon dated to around 2,000-1,800 years BC, making them the oldest remains ever found on the pass.

Archaeologists believe the items belonged to a Bronze Age mountain dweller, confirming that the pass has been used by hunters, shepherds and traders for at least 4,000 years as a passageway between the Bernese highlands and what is now the canton of Valais.

Other objects discovered on the pass in recent times have included wooden objects dating from Roman times, buckets from the Middle Ages and an Iron Age vessel with traces of embers inside.

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