Melting ice can unlock ancient secrets from the ground, as with the discovery in 1991 of “Oetzi”, a 5,300-year-old warrior whose body had been preserved through the millennia inside an Alpine glacier.
But as ice caps melt, deserts spread, ocean levels rise and hurricanes intensify — all forecast effects of man-made global warming — Henri-Paul Francfort of the CNRS research institute fears a heavy toll on world heritage.
Francfort is head of a French archaeological team in Central Asia that played an important part in excavating the Kurgans, or frozen tombs, of nomadic Scythian tribes in Siberia’s Altai mountains.
He fears they now risk being lost.
“The permafrost, the constantly frozen layer of earth that protected them up until now, is melting,” he said. “There are mummified, tattooed bodies, buried with sacrificed horses, furs, wooden objects and clothes.”
“With my Russian colleagues, we are watching the part of the soil that melts each season, and which is getting deeper and deeper. Unless we take preventative action, it will soon be too late.”