Archaeologists Discover 1300-Year-Old Pair of Skis, the Best-Preserved Ancient Skis in Existence

Surfing is generally believed to have originated in Hawaii and will forever be associated with the Polynesian islands. Yet anthropologists have found evidence of something like surfing, no matter where people have encountered a beach – off the coasts of West Africa, in the Caribbean, India, Syria and Japan. Surfing historian Matt Warshaw sums up the problem of locating the origin of this human activity: “Riding waves simply for pleasure probably developed in some form among all coastal people living close to warm sea water.” Could one make a similar point about skiing?

It seems that no matter where people have settled in places covered in snow for much of the year, they have improvised all sorts of ways to travel across it. Who did it with the first skis, and when? Ski-like objects from 6300-5000 BC. is found in northern Russia. ONE New York Times Article recently described evidence for Stone Age skiers in China. “If skiing, as it seems possible,” writes Nils Larsen at the International Skiing History Association, “goes back 10,000 years or more, it will at best be difficult to identify a place of origin (or origin).” Such discussions tend to become “stuck in politics and national pride”, Larsen writes. For example, “since the advent of skiing in Greater Europe in the late 1800s” – as a sport and purely leisure activity – “Norway has often been considered the birthplace of skiing. Norway has promoted this view and it is a point of national pride. . ”

Despite its earliest records of skiing dating millennia later than other regions, Norway has some claim. The word ski is, after all, Norwegian, derived from Old Norse skid, which means “wooden slat” or “stick”. And the best-preserved old skis ever found have been discovered in a Norwegian ice field. “Even the bindings are mostly intact,” notes Kottke. The first ski believed to be 1300 years old appeared in 2014, found by the Glacier Archeology Program (GAP) in the mountains of Inland County, Norway. The archaeologists decided to wait, let the ice melt and see if the other ski would show up. It did so recently, and in the video above you can see the scientists pulling it off the ice.

Photo: Andreas Christoffer Nilsson,

“It measures about 74 inches long and 7 inches wide,” notes Livia Gershon at the Smithsonian, “the other ski is slightly larger than its mate. Both have raised their footing. Leather straps and twisted birch bark bindings found with the skis would have been fastened through holes in the footrest. The new ski shows signs of heavy wear and possible repairs. “The two skis are not identical,” but we should not expect them to be, “says archaeologist Lars Pilø. “The skis are handmade, not mass-produced. They have a long and individual history of wear and repair before an Iron Age from the Iron Age used them together and they ended up in the ice. ”

The new ski answered questions that the researchers had about the first discovery, such as how the old skis may have maintained forward movement uphill. “A groove on the underside along the length of the ski that you find on other prehistoric skis (and on modern cross-country skis) would solve the question,” they write, and the other ski contained such a groove. Although they may never prove that Norway invented skiing as the glacier melts and new artifacts emerge each year, the team will learn much more about old Norwegian skiers and their lifestyles. See their current discoveries and follow their future progress on the Secrets of the Ice website and on their YouTube channel.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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