Melting of glacier in Italy reveals WWI artifacts in cave

Researchers have recovered a treasure trove of World War I artifacts from a cave shelter in northern Italy, revealed by the melting of a glacier.

During the war, the cave shelter housed 20 Austrian soldiers stationed at Mount Scorluzzo on the Alpine front, close to the famous Stelvio Pass, historian Stefano Morosini told CNN Tuesday.

While people knew the shelter existed, researchers were only able to enter it in 2017 as the surrounding glacier had melted, added Morosini, who is scientific coordinator of the heritage project at Stelvio National Park and teaches at the University of Bergamo.

Inside they found food, dishes and jackets made from animal skins, among many other items, he said.

The artifacts illustrate the “very poor daily life” of the soldiers, who had to deal with “extreme environmental conditions,” said Morosini.

“The artifacts are a representation, like a time machine, of … the extreme conditions of life during the first World War,” Morosini said, adding that more items appear in the area every summer as the glacier melts.

“It’s a sort of open air museum,” he said. Five years ago the bodies of two soldiers were found, he said, along with documents that allowed them to be identified and their remains given to their families.

The artifacts from the cave shelter are being preserved and will form part of the collection, due to open in late 2022, at a museum dedicated to World War I in the northern Italian town of Bormio, said Morosini.

The shelter was occupied in the first days of the war by Austrian troops, who made it completely invisible from the Italian side or from aerial observation, according to a statement from White War Museum, located in Adamello in northern Italy.

A total of 300 objects were recovered, including straw mattresses, coins, helmets, ammunition and newspapers.