February 11, 2016 7:06 pm
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Over the past decade, glacial ice covering the mountainous regions of northern Italy has been receding at an unusually high rate. But the most dramatic impact of this change began to surface over the past few years in the village of Peio — best known today as a popular ski resort, but once the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War I.

Image Credit: Trento Office for Archaeological Finds
Image Credit: Trento Office for Archaeological Finds

The region made international news over a decade ago, when retreating ice exposed the mummified corpses of Austrian and Italian fighters who died in a horrific clash on the front lines of the so-called “White War” in 1918, fought entirely on and around the ice-covered peaks of the Italian Alps. Since then, rapid melt has revealed more and more grisly reminders of a battle which has become an important part of the town’s legacy.

Image Credit: Laura Spinney
Image Credit: Laura Spinney

Both sides of the conflict had recruited expert climbers who knew the mountains, including the extreme conditions and the dangers involved at such high altitudes. Austrian forces included specializedKaiserschützen, whose expertise in icy conditions enabled them to build an elaborate network of tunnels through the glacial ice. Much of the equipment in those tunnels has been preserved by the extreme cold, but recent climate changes made it necessary to extract the artifacts and preserve them in a more controlled environment.

Image Credit: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio
Image Credit: Museo della Grande Guerra, Peio

According to The Telegraph, in 2005 a team of anthropologists digging in the ice at Punta Linke (nearly 6,500 feet above Peio) uncovered the remains of the base station for a motorized cable line, which ran supplies to Austrian troops, as well as a man-made cave from which these supplies were sent in wooden crates across the ice to the front lines.

Much of these artifacts have now been preserved in Peio’s war museum, and the recovered soldiers’ remains have been given proper military honors and returned to their respective families.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella