The Japan Times
September 15, 1999

Canadian iceman research begins

Archaelogists to combine Indian oral history and modern science


VICTORIA, British Columbia (Reuters) It will take modern science and ancient Indian oral tradition to unlock the secrets of an iceman found in a Canadian glacier, archaeologists and tribal leaders said Monday.

The age of the human remains discovered on Aug. 14 in remote northwestern British Columbia remains a mystery, but officials hope to have a better idea soon, after carbon dating is completed on artifacts found with the body.

The province of British Columbia and the people of Champagne and Aishihik First Nations agreed Monday to jointly manage a study on the iceman, who is believed to be an aboriginal hunter whom the tribe is calling "Kwaday Dan Sinchi," or Long Ago Person Found.

"It could have been a hunter. It could have been a person doing some trading. Hopefully we'll find some answers," said Bob Charlie, chief of the tribe in whose historic territory the body was found.

The remains were discovered by three school teachers during a sheep-hunting trip in Tetchenshini-Alsek Park, near the British Columbia borders with Yukon and Alaska.

Preliminary evidence indicates the remains were those of a man who died after falling into a mountain glacier crevasse, still a danger to present-day travelers in the rugged and sparsely populated area.

The artifacts, including a hat and hunting spear, indicate the body predates contact between the region's Indians and Europeans, who did not begin extensive trading in the area until the late 1700s.

People have lived in the area for more than 10,000 years, but archaeologists do not believe the remains are that old.

"I would not be surprised at 2,000 years or younger," said Al Mackie of the Royal British Columbia Museum, where the remains are to be tested, in the provincial capital of Victoria.

Mackie and Charlie said understanding how the man lived and died will require reviewing both the oral traditions and stories of the area's native people and using scientific tools, such as DNA testing.