Italy’s Melting Glaciers Contain the Preserved Bodies of WWI Soldiers

They were casualties of the White War, which is not actually a Game of Thrones episode.

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De Agostini / Getty Images

The Adamello Massif and Paghera stream, Paghera Valley, Lombardy, Italy.

In one of the strangest consequences of global warming yet, glaciers far north in the Italian Alps are slowly melting to reveal the frozen corpses of soldiers killed during World War I.

How did the ice-preserved bodies get to the small Alpine village of Peio? They were casualties of the White War, an obscure part of WWI. In May 1915, a newly united Italy decided to join the war on the side of the Allies, opening up a front on the northern border of the country which abutted the enemy Hapsburgs, part of the Central Powers. Far up in the mountains at elevations of over 6,500 feet, Italian troops called the Alpini fought their Austrian equivalent, the Kaiserschützen, with specialized weapons and infrastructure like ice trenches and cable transport systems.

As global warming has intensified over the past few decades, first soldiers’ personal affects like diaries and letters melted out of the ice, and now their bodies are following. The cold has kept them perfectly intact, like frozen mummies. Bare bones are wrapped in the tattered remains of uniforms, gruesome reminders of now-distant violence. In one terrifying photo, three Hapsburg soldiers, skulls exposed to the elements, are tangled in the ice. The trio is now buried in the Peio cemetery.

Archaeologists are continuing to explore the Alpine battlegrounds, uncovering man-made caves and artifacts like engines and guns. Thankfully, none of the uncovered bodies have turned into White Walkers—yet.