Wiping the snow off Greenland's oldest ski

By Time of article published Oct 15, 2004

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By Jan M Olsen

Copenhagen, Denmark - An 85cm-long piece of wood unearthed in southern Greenland in 1997 is likely to be a ski that was used by Norsemen who landed on the Arctic island more than 1 000 years ago, a researcher said on Friday.

The 9cm-wide plank with rounded edges was found during the excavation of a Norse settlement near the town of Nanortalik in 1997.

Stored at Greenland's National Museum in the capital, Nuuk, it wasn't thoroughly examined until this year, when Joel Berglund performed a carbon-14 dating test on the piece of wood.

He said results of the scan show the piece of wood, made from either a larch or fir tree, dated back to around 1010.

"It's very likely what is known as a 'short ski'," he said, adding the piece of wood is believed to have been brought to Greenland by Norsemen who set foot in southern Greenland around 980AD.

"It would be Greenland's oldest ski."

Berglund said Vikings used horses and boats to get around on the southern tip of the Arctic island.

"We also know that Norsemen widely used skis, but no other pieces of wood were found in the area, so maybe they didn't use it so much in Greenland," he added.

The people of Europe's northern fringe began skiing thousands of years ago, first as a way to move around, but then for recreation, too.

The Sami, indigenous to Norway, Finland and Sweden, were probably the first skiers, since they had to follow their migrating reindeer herds across the Nordics through frozen and snowy tundra. - Sapa-AP

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