NIKE bulletin 2019/3

Glacial archaeological heritage in Switzerland:

opportunities and risks




Glacial Archaeology in the Pennine Alps, Switzerland/Italy, 2011 to 2014

This report summarizes a glacial archaeology project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) which took place between 2011 and 2014. This interdisciplinary project integrated methods from archaeology, history, and geography and resulted in the collection of more than one hundred objects of archaeological interest. Until now, 37 of those objects have been dated using radiocarbon analysis and range from the Bronze Age to modern times. The final results are presented and discussed and perspectives are offered in regard to future regional scale, interdisciplinary, glacial archaeological projects.DOI: 10.1558/jga.33530}




bulletin d'etudes prehistoriques et archeologiques alpines XXVII, 2016, 247 - 262


Evaluation du potentiel archéologique sur les cols des Alpes pennines et lépontines (Canton du Valais, Suisse)

 Introduction / Archéologie glaciaire et système d’information géographique / Analyse du trajet optimal à l’aide du calcul du « chemin du moindre coût » / Calcul du  « chemin du moindre coût » : modèle ponctuel / Modèle linéaire : simulations de trajectoires entre vallées alpines / Potentiel archéologique des glaciers en relation avec l’évolution du retrait glaciaire / Conclusions / Annexe 1 : un manche de faucille découvert à 3440 m d’altitude dans la région du Théodule / Annexe 2 : Liste des dates C14 obtenues sur les éléments en bois récoltés / Bibliographie  > pdf



BOOK: 400 Jahre im Gletschereis. Der Theodulpass bei  Zermatt und sein «Söldner», 2016


Morphologie, Entwicklung un archäologisches Potenzial des Theodulgletschers: gestern, heute und morgen, 29-35

Geografische Lage / Holozäne Gletscherschwankungen in den schweizer Alpen /  Der Aletsch- und Der Gornergletscher / Die Schwankungen des Theodulgletschers / Der Aktuelle Stand Des Theodulgletschers / Die zukünftige Entwicklung des Oberen Theodul-Gletschers / GLACIARCH: ein theoretisches Modell zur Bestimmung von Gebieten auf dem Theodulgletschers und in seiner unmittelbaren Nähe, welche heute und zukünftig von archäologischem Interesse sein könnten. > pdf


Die Penninischen Hochalpenpässe und ihr archäologisches Potenzial: ein Vorhersagemodell, 22 - 24


 Gletscherarchäologie in den Penninischen Alpen / Geoinformationssysteme in der Gletscherarchäologie / Die Anwendung GIS-gestützter Simulationen in den Penninischen Alpen. > pdf





Combining glaciological and archaeological methods for gauging glacial archaeological potential

Recent climate changes have led to an increase in the exposure of archaeological remains in frozen environments due to the melting of glaciers and ice patches, and the thawing of permafrost. In some cases, the discovery of glacial archaeological findings has occurred due to chance. In order to avoid the risk of losing exceptional, often organic, cultural remains due to decomposition, systematic and predictive methods should be employed to locate areas of high glacial archaeological potential. Here, we merged archaeological and glaciological methods to create a new type of archaeological prediction model in the field of glacial archaeology. Locational analysis and glaciological modelling were used to highlight current and future areas of archaeological potential in the Pennine Alps, located between Switzerland and Italy. Future glacier area was calculated in 10 year increments until 2100. By 2090, 93% of glacier area is expected to have disappeared. The results from the final model, GlaciArch, provide new insights into future glacial archaeological prospection in the Pennine Alps by narrowing down a study region of 4500 km2 into several manageable square kilometer sites. > pdf



VALLESIA LXIX, 2014, 453 -521


Cols secondaires des Alpes valaisannes, entre le col de Cleuson et le Griespass. Etat des sources historiques et essai de synthèse

Le but de cette étude historique menée sur la base des parcours proposés par le Système d’Information Géographique, a été de vérifier si les sources attestaient de la fréquentation des cols de haute altitude: le corpus se basait entre autres sur des textes de voyageurs ou des documents provenant des Recès de la Diète valaisanne (XVème - XVIIIe s.), c’est-à-dire du «Parlement» valaisan de l’époque. Souvent, le nombre de témoignages écrits tendait à augmenter lors de périodes de tensions politiques ou de conflits commerciaux entre vallées alpines italiennes et valaisannes. Les résultats, synthétisant une documentation majoritairement déjà connue sur ces passages, ont démontré l’usage régulier de certains de ces cols aujourd’hui couverts de glace. > pdf





Prehistoric settlement evolution in the upper Rhone  valley (Western Alps): an upgraded version

 After the end of the last Ice Age, Mesolithic hunters-gatherers seemed to have colonized the Rhone Valley (Valais, Switzerland) in a south-north direction, over the mountain passes connecting northern Italy to the Rhone Valley and a western route by Lake Geneva and Swiss Midlands. It is presumed that early Neolithic culture spread to Valais following these south-north journeys. The Bronze Age reveals a strong demographic development. Later on, mountain passes seem to have played a more important role and the alpine communities profited from their location between south and north-alpine Europe. The economic management of the production zones can be seen as an attempt to control the differing altitude levels over time, cumulating in the Iron Age, with the first graveyards and permanent settlements in middle altitude. This was understood to indicate an economic organization of the region which generally remained until recent times, at least in certain regions of the Rhone Valley. > pdf






Least cost path analysis for predicting glacial archaeological site potential: scale and parameter investigations

Increasing global temperatures are causing shrinkage in Earth’s frozen environments due to the melting of ice and snow at high latitudes and altitudes. This phenomenon is relevant from many environmental perspectives as well as from an archaeological standpoint. Archaeological remains or artefacts which have been locked in frozen environments for hundreds or thousands of years are at risk of becoming exposed due to increased melting at high altitudes and latitudes. In an attempt to gauge archaeological potential in a mountainous region in western Europe, we further develop the least cost path analysis (LCPA) work conducted by Rogers et al. (2014) to investigate the results of least cost path (LCP) modelling in mountainous terrain. Different geographic scales and various parameter weighting schemes are used to test the effects of these changes on the resulting LCPs. The results show both similarities and differences between the paths calculated from the point and line scales and that increasing parameter weights in the LCPA model affect the spatial distribution of paths, and their respective travel times.  > pdf





Least cost path analysis for predicting glacial archaeological site potential in central Europe

Recent changes in climate have led to an increased exposure of glacial archaeological artefacts due to the melting of glaciers and ice patches. Here we calculated Least Cost Paths (LCPs) between archaeologically significant locations in Switzerland and Italy using a Least Cost Path Analysis (LCPA) method in which cost rasters were first calibrated at a study site near Haut-Val de Réchy, Switzerland to develop a prehistoric cost raster. Tools were used to calculate the LCPs based on DEM-derived slope using Tobler’s anisotropic hiking function and landcover. Our results have since provided a focus for prehistoric glacial archaeological prospection in the Pennine Alps of central Europe, as well as led to the discovery of an artefact from the Bronze Age (~2,800 years BP). This methodology could be used as an example for identifying additional sites of prehistoric glacial archaeological remains around the world. > pdf




An overview of selected GIS methods available for use in glacial archaeology

In recent years, increased levels of glacial retreat and ice patch melt due to a warming climate in high altitudes have revealed new opportunities to study glacial archaeology. When artifacts become exposed, they are vulnerable to decomposition and should be collected promptly to protect their (pre)historic properties. Therefore, there is urgency to locate potential archaeological sites to avoid the loss of culturally significant remains. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) can be used to help focus or predict potential glacial archaeological study areas based on their environmental and cultural characteristics. Here, an overview of the possibilities for glacial archaeological research using the spatial analysis methods of visibility, locational, and least-cost path analyses (LCPA) in GIS, is provided. > pdf