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Waxing and waning in the shadow of glaciers

What happens when you take a drawing, made to be vulnerable to heat and environmental conditions, out in to the baking hot sunshine of the alpine sun?

This is exactly what I tried to find out this week as I took drawings made as part of the Emergency! project to the Val d'Herens in Switzerland.

When archaeologist and curator at the Le Musée d’histoire du Valais, Pierre-Yves Nicod, said he was thinking about how to get the drawings under the alpine sun, I decide to take him literally and stage a set of experiments in the ice capped mountains near to the museum.

Over 3 days , I hiked to the base of different glaciers and laid out the drawings under the sun. On one day, I was joined by archeologists who has worked on some of the finds. At glacier Mont-Miné, the experiments were witnessed by Nicod, and archeologists Philippe Curdy, Regula Gubler and Marcel Cornelissen and archeo-botanist Lucie Martin.

At glacier Mont Miné , cloud cover limited the extent of the heat and only minor melting could be detected. However, a previous day, in the adjacent valley, the pale wax scored lines had clearly faded, the wax beading and erasing the marks under the heat of the sun. The results of the trials were inconclusive and need to be tested further. This will be done in 2023 over a more sustained period of time, assessing the capacity of drawing as a tool to record erasure and climatic conditions. Watch this space for more information as the project develops.

Archaeologists Pierre-Yves Nicod and Lucie Martin examine the melt of a drawing and glacier Mont Mine

Setting out the experiments and observing the melt (Image credit Marcel Cornelissen 2022 )

Details of drawing prior to melt

Setting up the experiment with Pierre-Yves Nicod

Regula Gubler and Marcel Cornelissen examine the experiments

Corenellisen gathered drone footage of the experiments from above. (Image credit Marcel Cornelissen 2022 )


Thanks to Pierre-Yves Nicod, Marcel Cornelissen, Regula Gubler, Philippe Curdy, Lucie Martin and Christine Curdy for your help with this work.


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