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冰川融化后,远古的秘密重现人间

As Earth Warms, Old Mayhem and Secrets Emerge From the Ice
冰川融化后,远古的秘密重现人间

For the past few centuries, the Yup’ik peoples of Alaska have told gruesome tales of a massacre that occurred during the Bow and Arrow War Days, a series of long and often brutal battles across the Bering Sea coast and the Yukon. According to one account, the carnage started when one village sent a war party to raid another. But the residents had been tipped off and set an ambush, wiping out the marauders. The victors then attacked the undefended town, torching it and slaughtering its inhabitants. No one was spared.

在过去的几个世纪里,阿拉斯加的尤皮克人(Yup'ik)讲述了传说中发生在弓箭战争时期的一场可怕大屠杀,这是一系列横跨白令海岸和育空地区的漫长战斗,往往非常残酷。根据一种说法,最早是一个村庄派出一支队伍突袭另一个村庄,从而引发了一场屠杀。但居民们听到了风声,设下埋伏,消灭了掠夺者。获胜一方随后袭击了不设防的城镇,杀人放火。无人幸免。

For the last 12 years, Rick Knecht has led an excavation at a site called Nunalleq, about 400 miles west of Anchorage. “When we began, the hope was to learn something about Yup’ik prehistory by digging in an average village,” said Dr. Knecht, an archaeologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. “Little did we know that we were digging in something approaching the Yup’ik equivalent of Troy.”

过去的12年里,里克·克内希特一直在安克雷奇以西约400英里一个名为努勒克的遗址进行挖掘工作。“刚开始的时候,我们希望通过在一个普通村庄挖掘来了解尤皮克人的史前史,”苏格兰阿伯丁大学的考古学家克内希特说。“完全没想到我们正在挖掘的东西接近于尤皮克人的特洛伊。”
 

挪威的朗方尼冰区。

Their most astonishing discovery was the charred remnants of a large communal sod house. The ground was black and clayey and riddled with hundreds of slate arrow points, as if from a prehistoric drive-by shooting. In all, the researchers and native Yup’ik people who live in the area unearthed more than 100,000 well-preserved artifacts, as well as the singed carrion of two dogs and the scattered bones of at least 28 people, almost all women, children and elders. Several of them had evidently been dragged out of the house, bound with grass rope and killed — some beheaded. “It is a complex murder scene,” Dr. Knecht said. “It is also a rare and detailed archaeological example of Indigenous warfare.”

他们最惊人的发现是一个大型公共草皮房燃烧后的遗留物。地面是黑色的粘土,布满数以百计的石板箭头,仿佛一场史前的路过枪击案现场。研究人员和居住在该地区的土著尤皮克人总共发掘了10万多件保存完好的文物、两条狗烧焦的腐肉,以及至少28人的零散骨头,几乎都是妇孺和老人。其中几人显然是被拖出房子,用草绳捆起来杀死的——有些人被砍头。“这是一个复杂的杀戮现场,”克内希特说。“这也是一个罕见而详细的土著人战争的考古实例。”

Until recently, the site had been deepfrozen in the subsoil known as permafrost. As global temperatures gather pace, permafrost and glaciers are thawing and eroding rapidly across vast areas of Earth, releasing many of the objects that they had absorbed and revealing aspects of life in a once inaccessible past.

直到最近,该遗址一直被深度冻结在被称为永久冻土的底土中。随着全球气温的上升,地球上的永久冻土和冰川正在迅速融化,遭到侵蚀,释放出许多曾被它们吞噬的物体,并揭示出过去生活的方方面面,它们曾经是无法触及的。

“The circumpolar world is, or was, full of miraculously preserved sites like Nunalleq,” Dr. Knecht said. “They offer a window into the unexpectedly rich lives of prehistoric hunters and foragers like no other.”

“环极地世界现在或过去充满了像努勒克这样奇迹般地保存下来的遗址,”克内希特说。“它们为我们提供了一个独一无二的窗口,让我们了解史前猎人和觅食者出人意料的丰富生活。”

The Iceman emerges

冰人出现


Glacial archaeology is a relatively new discipline. The ice was literally broken during the summer of 1991 when German hikers in the Ötztal Alps spotted a tea-colored corpse half-embedded on the Italian side of the border with Austria. Initially mistaken for a modern-day mountaineer killed in a climbing accident, Ötzi the Iceman, as he came to be called, was shown through carbon-dating to have died about 5,300 years ago.

冰川考古学是一门相对较新的学科。1991年夏天,德国徒步旅行者在奥茨塔尔阿尔卑斯山脉的发现一具半埋在意大利与奥地利边境的褐色尸体,这时冰层其实已经被打破了。起初,人们误认为他是在一次登山事故中丧生的现代登山者,后来人们称他为“冰人奥茨”,碳测定法显示他死于大约5300年前。

In 2006, a long, hot autumn in Norway resulted in an explosion of discoveries in the snowbound Jotunheimen mountains, home to the Jötnar, the rock and frost giants of Norse mythology. Of all the dislodged detritus, the most intriguing was a 3,400-year-old proto-Oxford most likely fashioned out of reindeer hide.

2006年,挪威漫长而炎热的秋天导致冰雪覆盖的约敦海门山脉有了大量发现,这里是挪威神话中岩石和冰霜巨人“Jötnar”的故乡。在所有暴露出来的残骸中,最有趣的是一只鞋子,很像牛津鞋,有3400年历史,很可能是用驯鹿皮做成的。

The discovery of the Bronze Age shoe signified the beginning of glacial surveying in the peaks of Innlandet County, where the state-funded Glacier Archaeology Program was started in 2011. Outside of the Yukon, it is the only permanent rescue project for discoveries in ice.

这只青铜时代鞋子的发现,标志着因兰特县山峰冰川勘测的开始。2011年,由国家资助的冰川考古项目在该县启动。在育空地区之外,这是唯一一个针对冰中发现的常设性抢救项目。

Glacial archaeology differs from its lowland cousin in critical ways. G.A.P. researchers usually conduct fieldwork only within a short time frame from mid-August to mid-September, between the thaw of old snow and the arrival of new. “If we start too early, much of the snow from the previous winter will still cover the old ice and lessen the chance of making discoveries,” said Lars Holger Pilo, co-director of the Glacier Archaeology Program. “Starting too late is also hazardous. We might get early winter snow, and the field season could be over before we begin.” Glacial discoveries tend to be limited to what archaeologists can glean on the previously ice-locked ground.

冰川考古学与低地考古学存在关键不同。冰川考古项目的研究人员通常只在8月中旬到9月中旬这段很短的时间内进行实地调查,也就是从旧雪融化到新雪到来之间的时间。“如果开始得太早,上个冬天的大部分积雪仍然会覆盖旧冰,减少发现的机会,”冰川考古项目的联合主任拉尔斯·霍尔格·皮洛(Lars Holger Pilo)说。“太晚开始也是危险的。我们可能会遇到初冬的雪,实地考察季可能还没开始就已经结束了。”对冰川的发现往往局限于考古学家在之前被冰封的土地上所能收集到的东西。

When the program started, the finds were mainly Iron Age and medieval, from 500 to 1,500 years ago. But as the melting widens, ever older periods of history are being exposed. “We have now melted back to the Stone Age in some places, with pieces as old as six millenniums,” Dr. Pilo said. “We are speeding back in time.”

当这个项目开始时,发现的物品主要来自500年到1500年前的中世纪和铁器时代。但随着冰川融化范围的扩大,历史上更古老的时期暴露出来。“在一些地方,融化已经回到了石器时代,有些碎片已经有6千年的历史了,”皮洛说。“我们正在加速回到过去。”

Spectacular glacial finds invariably involve luck, as Craig Lee, an archaeologist at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, can attest. Fourteen years ago, in the mountain ice outside Yellowstone National Park, he spotted the foreshaft of a throwing spear called an atlatl dart, carved from a birch sapling 10,300 years ago. The primitive hunting weapon is the earliest organic artifact ever to be retrieved from an ice patch.

重大的冰川发现必然含有运气成分,北极与高山研究所的考古学家克雷格·李深以为然。14年前,在黄石国家公园外的山冰中,他发现了一根被称为梭镖的投掷矛的前缘,是在10300年前用一棵桦树树苗雕刻而成的。这个原始的狩猎武器是迄今为止从冰川中找到的最早的有机制品。

“In the Yukon, ice patch discoveries have given us new insights into the pre-European tradition of copper-working by Indigenous peoples,” said William Taylor, an archaeologist at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History in Boulder. “In the Rockies, researchers have recovered everything from frozen trees that document important changes in climate and vegetation to the hunting implements of some of the first peoples of the continent.”

“在育空地区,冰原的发现让我们对前欧洲时期土著居民制铜的传统有了新的认识,”位于博尔德的科罗拉多大学自然历史博物馆的考古学家威廉·泰勒说:“在落基山脉,从记录气候和植被重要变化的冰冻树木,到该大陆最早一些民族的狩猎工具,研究人员已经有了全面发现。”

“The constant movement inside glaciers damages both bodies and artifacts, and eventually dumps the sad debris at the mouth of the ice floe,” Dr. Pilo, of the Glacier Archaeology Program in Norway, said. “Due to the movement and the continuous renewal of the ice, glaciers rarely preserve objects more than 500 years.”

“冰川内部不断的运动破坏了尸体和文物,最终将惨不忍睹的碎片倾倒在浮冰口,”挪威冰川考古项目的皮洛说。“由于冰川的移动和不断更新,冰川很少能保存住超过500年的物品。”

Dr. Lee, of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, likens the destruction wrought by glacial degeneration to a library on fire. “Now is not the time to stand around pointing fingers at one another trying to lay blame for the blaze,” he said. “Now is the time to rescue what books can be saved for the edification of the future.”

北极与高山研究所的李将冰川退化造成的破坏比作图书馆着火。“现在不是站在那里互相指责、推卸大火责任的时候,”他说。“现在应该去拯救那些可以被保存下来的书籍,以便启迪未来。”

On thin ice

如履薄冰


It’s a grim inside joke among glacial archaeologists that their field of study has been one of the few beneficiaries of climate change. But while retreating ice and snow makes some prehistoric treasures briefly accessible, exposure to the elements threatens to swiftly destroy them.

冰川考古学家之间会讲一个黑色笑话——他们的研究领域是气候变化的少数受益者之一。虽然冰川和积雪的消融使人们可以在短期内获得一些史前宝藏,但暴露在自然环境中却有迅速毁灭的危险。

Once soft organic materials — leather, textiles, arrow fletchings — surface, researchers have a year at most to rescue them for conservation before the items degrade and are lost forever. “After they are gone,” Dr. Taylor said, “our opportunity to use them to understand the past and prepare for the future is gone with them.”

柔软的有机材料——皮革、纺织品、箭羽——一旦出现在表面,研究人员最多有一年的时间来拯救它们,赶在它们发生降解并永远消失前加以保护。“它们消失后,”泰勒说,“我们利用它们了解过去、为未来做准备的机会也随之消失了。”

E. James Dixon, former director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, agreed. “The sheer scale of the loss relative to the number of archaeologists researching these sites is overwhelming,” he said. “It’s like an archaeological mass extinction where certain types of sites are all disappearing at approximately the same time.”

新墨西哥大学马克斯韦尔人类学博物馆前馆长E·詹姆斯·迪克森对此表示赞同。“相对于研究这些遗址的考古学家的数量,损失的规模是巨大的,”他说。“这就像是一次大规模的考古灭绝,某些类型的遗址几乎在同一时间全部消失。”
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