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Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi (meaning Long Ago Person Found in Southern Tutchone), or Canadian Ice Man, is a naturally mummified body found in Tatshenshini-Alsek Parkmarker in British Columbiamarker, Canada, by a group of hunters in 1999. Radiocarbon dating of artifacts found with the body placed the age of the body at between 300 and 550 years old. The find, while not as old, was comparable in condition and value to Ötzi the Iceman, found in the Ötztal Alpsmarker in 1991.

The discovery

Three sheep hunters, Bill Hanlon, Warren Ward and Mike Roche, discovered a number of artifacts and a human body in a melting glacier while hunting near the Yukonmarker border on August 14, 1999 (60′ N 138′ W). The hunters were walking along a glacier, above the tree line, and noticed some bits of wood, which they thought was unusual given their location above the tree line. They examined the wood, and noticed carvings and notches, possibly indicating the wood formed the frame of a backpack. Ward, searching with binoculars, then discovered the body in the ice. On August 16, they reported their find to Beringia Centre staff, and turned in a number of artifacts they collected from the site. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations were notified of the remains and visited the site; they decided to name the person Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi, which means Long Ago Person Found. A team of archeologists was then assembled to assess the find.

Description

The remains had been dismembered after death, probably by shifting ice due to thermal cracking and slumping along the edge of the glacier. The first part found was the torso, with left arm and mummified hand still attached. The lower body was found a few meters away, with the thighs and muscle still attached. The head was missing, as was the right arm and lower right leg, though his hair, attached to some remnants of the scalp, and some small bones from the right hand and foot were recovered. Soft tissue was present primarily in the torso and thighs; the torso was of particular interest, as this allowed analysis of the gastric contents, which provide many clues to the days leading up to Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi's death.

Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi represents the oldest well preserved human remains in North America. Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi was estimated to be approximately 18-19 years old at his time of death. The cause of death is unknown, but there appears to be no sign of serious injury, and hypothermia is a possibility, as the time of death places it near the onset of the Little Ice Age. An examination of the food in Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi's digestive tract reveal that he had traveled a distance of around 100 km (60 miles) in the three days prior to his death, from the coastal region up into higher elevations where he was found. Based on pollen found in the contents of his colon, he was traveling in the summer.

Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi was found with a number of artifacts, including a robe made from about 95 gopher or squirrel skins sewn together with sinew, a woven hat, a walking stick, an iron bladed knife, a hand tool of unknown purpose, and an atlatl and dart. After samples were taken for study, the remainder of Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi's remains were cremated and scattered over the area where he was discovered, and local clans are considering a memorial potlatch to honor Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi.

DNA testing

In 2000, DNA testing of local inhabitants of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations tribes' mitochondria revealed 17 living people who are matrilineally related to Kwäday Dän Ts’ìnchi. A partial mitochondrial DNA sequence of Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi, containing information on the hypervariable region HVR2, bases 1 to 360, is available in the National Center for Biotechnology Informationmarker's genome sequencing database, GenBank, as accession number AF502945.

References

  1. Pringle, Heather. "The Messenger", Canadian Geographic Magazine, Dec 2008, p. 74.
  2. Pringle, Heather. "The Messenger", Canadian Geographic Magazine, Dec 2008, p. 73



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