History

Trapped in Ice: 40 Amazing Scientific Discoveries Found Frozen

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Few substances preserve items quite like ice. The cold temperatures can prevent things from degrading and can preserve them nearly unaltered for decades, centuries, or even millennia. Because of this, scientists have made some impressive discoveries over the years, finding treasures preserved in their original form. These discoveries have taught us important lessons about our past and given a portal to view the world as it once was. What types of discoveries have scientists made?

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In some cases, it might get cold enough to freeze architecture. In some places, this happens more often than others. Michigan is known for its cold temperatures and this lighthouse froze completely. Hopefully, this structure is unharmed. 

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Wooly mammoths have long mystified everyone from schoolchildren to professional scientists. In this situation, an individual discovered the brains of a mammoth along the coast of the Laptev Sea. This is one of only a few examples of a mammoth being found with its brain intact. In this case, the mammoth likely fell to its death thousands of years ago.

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While sometimes scientists discover ancient animals frozen in ice, this isn’t always the case. In this example, scientists discovered a modern fox frozen solidly in ice. This fox likely took a swim in the frozen conditions of the Arctic. Then, it was frozen solid and discovered in this form. Modern animals are not immune to being frozen in ice.

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Continuing with the theme of animals frozen in ice, not everything that is frozen dies. In this picture, an alligator is seen frozen in ice. Shockingly, it survived. Some animals are able to survive the cold conditions, provided that they can still breathe.

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In addition to animals, scientists are able to find other relics trapped in ice. While not exactly a relic, scientists did discover this military plane that had crashed decades ago. It was eventually rediscovered not far from the crash site. It had crashed into a nearby glacier and was frozen solid.

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Some of what people might discover in ice can be downright bizarre. Seen in this photo is a fish that is trying to eat another fish. Because it was frozen in the middle of this act, the temperature of the water must have dropped quickly. 

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Seen in this photo is a dinosaur that was evidently mummified by the ice. The ability of ice to preserve animals that had frozen millions of years ago provides scientists with a unique learning opportunity. Scientists are able to study the structure of the animal to figure out how it would’ve survived millions of years in the past.

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In this photo, scientists found birds that were diving into the water, looking for pray. Unfortunately, during their dive, the water temperature dropped. This trapped the birds in the ice until they were rediscovered. 

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Dogs have been around for millennia as well. In this picture, scientists are examining a puppy that they found frozen in ice. This specimen is well-preserved and gives scientists an opportunity to study dogs that were alive during the ice age. This puppy was found in Siberia and helps to trace the evolutionary tree of canines. 

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Explorers found this copper arrowhead preserved, frozen in ice. This tells scientists that ancient cultures understood how to use metallurgy to make arrowheads. This tip even had barbs and resembles that fishhooks that people use today. This technology has likely advanced for its time.

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In some cases, scientists find artifacts that can help them map the movements of ancient cultures. Seen here, explorers have identified various items that were used by Vikings in Norway. This gear was thousands of years old and helps to cement the reputation of ancient Vikings as explorers.

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Sometimes, scientists can make discoveries that are downright scary. In this image, the ice appears to be soaked in blood. How does this happen to something that is frozen? In actuality, the ice is just filled with iron. It is the same substance that gives Mars its color.

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Among other fascinating discoveries, scientists can actually find entire forests that are frozen in water. As glaciers advance, they pick up other items that are frozen in ice. This is called a moraine. These items form a cushion that protects other items, such as forests, from being crushed by the glacier. This has preserved the forest as the glacier continues to move.

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On a somber note, scientists can also discover bodies in the ice. These are mountains from Chile where ancient cultures sometimes performed human sacrifices. Some of these sacrifices are found preserved in the ice.

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Even though this seems foreign to us today, human sacrifice was a way that ancient cultures would try to please their gods. In some cases, cultures even sacrificed children. These discoveries give scientists a window into ancient cultures.

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For those who would like to know exactly how ice preserves its items, the extreme cold stops the decomposition process. Bacteria are responsible for breaking down various substances over time. If the items are frozen solid, bacteria do not have access to oxygen. Therefore, they cannot decompose whatever is in the ice.

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In this photo, many of the battlefield items and trenches are seen preserved from World War I. Many of these battles were fought high up in the Alps, where the temperatures can plummet. This harmed the soldiers fighting in these battles and also preserved much of their equipment for posterity.

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In addition to discovering the sacrifices of ancient cultures, scientists have also found modern humans frozen in ice. Those who tumble to their deaths or are otherwise frozen in ice can be preserved for hundreds of years before discovery.

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Scientists have also found sabertooth tigers, which have also been called cave lions. One of these discoveries was made in Siberia. In this situation, scientists believe that they had found a cub. Even the fur of this animal had been preserved by the ice, allowing scientists to learn more about this ancient animal.

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Seen here in this picture, scientists have also found darts of the ancient Atlatl people. These darts were placed on the end of a wooden pole and functioned as an ancient spear. The Atlatl people customized these spears so that they could be thrown farther and more accurately. 

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Not everything that has been frozen in ice can be seen with the naked eye. Scientists have also discovered ancient bacteria frozen in the ice. These bacteria are the ancestors of current bacteria, allowing scientists to trace the evolutionary process between then and now.

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These bacteria aren’t always dead and scientists need to be careful. Even though we have modern defenses and medications to defend against the bacteria we see on a daily basis, we have no such protection against these ancient bacteria. Therefore, scientists need to take extra precautions.

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1. Mammoth + Brains

The Woolly Mammoth has become an iconic member of the ‘trapped in ice’ family. Here we see a picture of a mammoth that was discovered with its brain intact! Scientists have dated this specimen to roughly 39,000 years old. Scientists estimate that this mammoth was roughly six years old when it died. The leading theory for this ‘little’ mammoth is that the creature fell into the water and summarily froze to death.

2. Long Ago Man

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Meet Otzi, the ‘Long Ago Man’. Discovered in ice by scientists, Otzi presents one of the most fascinating cases of life preserved by ice. Said to be nearly 5,300 years old, Otzi was discovered with a robe made from ninety-five different pelts. Otzi also had fish scales in his pockets, a giant fur coat, and a walking stick. While Otzi was definitely prepared for the weather, he ultimately died by falling from his glacier.

3. Human Spears

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Humans have always left signs of life where they once lived. Here, we see a collection of human spears that were found in Yellowstone. These spears were collected in a portion fo Yellowstone that had purportedly never housed human life. The spears were judged to be roughly 10,000 years old. These are ancient for human standards.

4. Woolly Rhino

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We imagine that there are few things more terrifying in life than being charged down by a rhino covered in fur. This concept art represents the remains of a woolly rhino that was discovered in Sakha, Russia.  The woolly rhino may sound like a creature from a storybook, but they were actually real. These rhinos allegedly died out around 10,000 years ago

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5. Sabretooth Tigers

Otherwise, known as cave lions, sabretooth tigers were once the apex predators of the land. These giant cats roamed throughout Russia and that is exactly where scientists found an amazingly preserved specimen. This sabretooth tiger was located in Yakutia, Siberia. The body was so well-preserved that the giant cat was still covered in fur. Sabretooth tigers were purported to have died out due to human hunting and global warming.

6. Manmade Darts

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Scientists have discovered the remnants of our human ancestors in just about every corner of the globe. As it turns out, we’re a rather crafty species. In fact, we’re so crafty that our tools can be found in the waste of long-dead animals. Here, we see a manmade dart shaft that was discovered in the fossilized poop of a giant caribou.

7. Caribou Poo

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While not specifically a creature, the droppings of an animal are almost as good. Caribou droppings have been found frozen in ice all over the northern regions of their inhabitance. Scientists love discovering poo, and we aren’t joking! Finding the ancient droppings of a dead animal can serve as a wonderful point of research for discovering their traits, diet, and general wellbeing.

8. Rare Wood

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Alright, so we were pretty liberal with our title. But still, finding ancient structures frozen in time is just as amazing as finding a frozen creature. Scientists have found rare wood frozen in ice. What makes this kind of discovery special is that the wood is not natural to the area, meaning it was hauled there by humans. Finding human remains in ice can help to paint a picture of how our ancestors behaved.

9. 600-Year-Old Basket

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If you dig through ice long enough, you’ll find hints at human life. This basket was discovered in Alaska and scientists were quick to establish a timeframe for its creation. According to scientific research, this Alaskan birch basket was created more than 600 years ago! Imagine what this basket was around to see. The fact that the ice preserved it for so long is truly amazing.

10. Gopher Capturing Stick

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Gopher’s may be adorable little creatures, but they were also a great snack for early man. Scientists managed to find a gopher capturing stick frozen in the ice. This stick had a looping snare and a curved body that would help to snare the little creatures when they crossed the threshold. The trap was found to be over 1,800 years old.

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11. Ancient Willow Bow

Finding weapons frozen in ice makes perfect sense. Back then, you had to be ready to kill in order to protect yourself. Scientists have found curved willow bows frozen in ice on numerous occasions. One of the oldest recovered bows was said to be nearly 340 years old. This discovery was made by the archeologist Tom Andrews.

12. Prehistoric Moose

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One of the most tantalizing prospects of finding a frozen creature preserved in ice is what it will reveal. Scientists have discovered ancient versions of modern creatures, such as the prehistoric moose shown above. Similar to the Canadian and Alaskan moose, this prehistoric creature had slight variations. Understanding these variations will allow scientists to more firmly grasp how beings change over time.

13. Frozen Frog

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Even the tiniest creatures can represent a huge boost of knowledge for modern science. While not as physically impressive as a moose or a mammoth, this frozen frog can reveal quite a bit about life at the time of its death. This frog likely died while trying to cross a small stream, thus leaving it frozen forever.

14. The Ice Maiden

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Perhaps more impressive than a frozen frog is that of a frozen human. This Incan Mummy was preserved in ice thanks to her convenient location. Found 20,000 feet above sea level, at the edge of a volcano, this frozen woman was found with her children. She was so well-preserved that she still had dead lice in her hair. Scientists don’t know why she was near the volcano, but the leading guess is that she was a sacrifice from her tribe.

15. Smallpox Disease

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Like the beginning of a viral horror movie, this Siberian discovery nearly caused a fatal outbreak. A body was found frozen in a Siberian river. What made the discovery worth mentioning was the fact that the body still carried smallpox disease. Fortunately, the people in charge of this discovery were careful and no new outbreaks were allowed to happen.

16. Pathos Virus

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Now, we’re starting to think that digging through the ice is a bad idea. The Pathos Virus was discovered frozen in an icecap in the tundras of Siberia. Over 30,000 years old, this ancient virus does not have a modern cure. The Pathos Virus is also known to be one of the physically largest viral beings on the planet.

17. Lyuba the Baby Mammoth

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If you thought that finding a virus was cool, wait until you get a load of this. Lyuba is a baby woolly mammoth that was said to roam the planet almost 50,000 years ago. Found in 2007, by complete accident, this is one of the most incredible scientific discoveries in recent memory. Lyuba still had her skin, eyes, and trunk fully intact when she was found by a reindeer hunter.

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18. Frozen Bone Pits

Let’s end our discussion with something truly frightening, the discovery of frozen bone pits. Found in the Himalayas, piles of human bones were unearthed back in 1942. These bones were found in a thawed lake and there were allegedly thousands in total. Scientists managed to date the bones back to 850 A.D. 

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