The discovery of the bodies of two soldiers from a First World War battlefield high up in the Dolomites in Italy has renewed concerns about the rapid melting of Europe’s glaciers as a result of global warming.
The area was the scene of bitter mountain warfare between Italian and Austro-Hungarian forces, in a theatre of the First World War which was described by Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms.
The two soldiers, believed to have been members of an artillery unit in the Austro-Hungarian army, lay interred in snow and ice for nearly 100 years, after being killed in fierce fighting with Italian forces, probably in May 1918.
But Italy’s warmest summer in nearly a decade melted the ice in which they were encased to reveal their entangled skeletons, fragments of uniform and military insignia.
It is the second such discovery in less than two months – in August a cache of more than 200 rusted grenades dating from the First World War emerged from another glacier in the Dolomites.
The remains of the soldiers were found at an altitude of 9,850ft on the Presena glacier, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region.
Ironically they were discovered by employees of a company which is covering the glacier with vast tarpaulins to try to halt its shrinking as a result of rising temperatures.
Their remains were gathered up by alpine guides and military historians and flown by helicopter to a hospital in the city of Vicenza, where they will undergo laboratory analysis for identification. They will then be buried in a war cemetery.
“The Presena glacier has been for 100 years the tomb of these soldiers, but unfortunately the melting of the ice has resulted in them emerging after all this time,” said Walter Belotti, a historian of the war…
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