While the highlight of the summer season is to go out and discover melted out treasures along the edges of the ice, the best part of the winter season is when the results from the 14C analyses starts ticking in. Only then do you truly realize how valuable your finds were and how important the inland ice has been for animals for thousands of years.
The age of old organic remains can be decided through a method called radiocarbon dating or 14C dating. This is done by measuring the concentration of a radioactive carbon isotope, 14C, which decays at a regular rate after an organism dies. A detailed description of the method can be found here, but the result is that we get a fairly precise calculation of when the animal died, e.g. 2483 years ago ± 49 years. Thus far, we have dated more than 100 animal remains from glaciers and snow patches in Scandinavia and documented a continuous presence of animals on the ice for more than 4000 years. We don’t know yet how far back we might be able to stretch this timeline as the ice continues to melt and more finds appear. Finds from similar sites in Yukon have revealed more than 9000 year old remains!