While people knew the shelter existed, researchers weren’t able to enter it until 2017, when the surrounding glacier melted, added Morosini, who is the scientific coordinator of the heritage project in the Stelvio National Park and teaches at the University of Bergamo.
Inside, they found food, dishes and jackets made from animal skins, among other things, he said.
The artifacts illustrate the “very poor everyday life” of soldiers who had to deal with “extreme environmental conditions,” said Morosini. Winter temperatures could drop to -40 degrees Celsius, he added.
“Soldiers had to fight against the extreme environment, against the snow or the avalanches, but also against the enemy,” said Morosini.
“The artifacts are like a time machine, a representation of the extreme living conditions during World War I,” he said, adding that more objects appear in the area each summer as the glacier melts.
“It’s kind of an open-air museum,” said Morosini, who said the bodies of two soldiers were found five years ago, along with documents that allowed them to be identified and their remains turned over to their families.
The artifacts from the cave protection will be preserved and will be part of the collection, which is slated to open in a museum dedicated to World War I in the northern Italian city of Bormio in late 2022, Morosini said.
The shelter was occupied by Austrian troops in the first days of the war, who, according to the White War Museum in Adamello, northern Italy, made it completely invisible from the Italian side or from the air.
It is located at an altitude of 3,094 meters just below the summit of Scorluzzo. Excavation work has been carried out every July and August since 2017, during which around 60 cubic meters of ice are removed from the cave.
A total of 300 items were recovered, including straw mattresses, coins, helmets, ammunition and newspapers.
“The finds in the Scorluzzo cave give us a piece of life after over a hundred years at over 3,000 meters above sea level, where time stopped on November 3, 1918, when the last Austrian soldier closed the door and hurried downhill,” they say in the museum’s press release.
CNN’s Hada Messia contributed to this report.