|20 April 2008
Alpine task force formed to salvage prehistoric treasures
Prehistoric treasures unearthed in the Alps as melting glaciers recede are under threat from looters who are removing many of them. Such is the concern for the newly revealed objects - which include weapons, clothing and tools - that a task force of archaeologists, anthropologists, mountain climbers and Alpine rescue teams has been formed in an attempt to salvage them. Franco Nicolis, an archaeologist from Trento (Italy), said: "We must be ready to intervene as if we were dealing with a public calamity." He said that mountain climbers and hikers would be asked to report any finds to the task force rather than removing them. The initiative, which will ensure that items are preserved before they can deteriorate, is being organised by the superintendency of archaeology at Trento and the Stelvio National Park.
The most spectacular Alpine find so far is Oetzi the Iceman, also known as Similaun Man or “Frozen Fritz” - the well-preserved, mummified body of a hunter or shepherd in his forties, who died in about 3300 BCE and was found in 1991. More recent finds include prehistoric bronze arrowheads, clothing and shoes at Schnidejoch in the Swiss Alps and Roman and mediaeval treasures found at Vedrete di Riete and Vioz in the Italian Alps.
Archaeologists say that errors were made, which 'must not be repeated' as more discoveries are made. Oetzi was dug out with ice-axes and hikers were allowed to touch the corpse and take tools and fragments of clothing as souvenirs.
Professor Nicolis, an expert on the Copper Age, said that careful study of such finds could produce priceless information. Professor Nicolis said it was vital that scientists moved quickly to conserve such objects, observing that if Oetzi had been found 'even a few days later than he was' the damage to the remains would have been irreparable.
Source: Times Online (17 April 2008)
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