|11 September 1999
Remains of iceman discovered in Canadian glacier
The discovery of a well-preserved iceman frozen in a melting Canadian glacier has sent a thunderbolt of excitement through the archeological world.
Officials said tools and clothing associated with the preserved body indicate the man died in a fall before Europeans arrived in the region. But they stressed it was too early to give an accurate estimate on the age of the remains.
Extensive trading contact between Europeans and Indians in this region of Canada only began in the late 1700s, but people have lived in the region for at least 10,000 years, archaeologist believe.
The remains were found in early August by three teachers hunting for sheep at a glacier in Tatchenshini-Alsek Park, which is located in extreme northwestern British Columbia not far from the Yukon and Alaska borders. Preliminary evidence indicated the remains were those of a man who died from a fall into a glacier crevasse. Because of the ice, the victim's soft tissue, such as skin and muscles were still preserved. The receding ice also revealed his simple possessions: a fur cloak, a broad-brimmed hat, a walking stick, a spear and a leather pouch filled with fish and edible leaves for a meal he never consumed.
Although intact ancient bodies have been found in the Alps, Andes, Siberia and Arctic Canada, this discovery is the first of its kind in the western Canadian mountains, officials said. It definitely appears precontact, definitely before Europeans reached this part of the world, and definitely an extremely rare find, perhaps one of the most important ever in northern Canada, said Knut Fladmark, professor of archeology at British Columbia's Simon Fraser University.
Officials said study of the remains will be conducted differently from that on a body of an ancient shepherd found in 1991 in a glacier on the Italy-Austria border, because the study work must take into account Indian cultural concerns. Those concerns were reflected in the way pictures taken at the scene were released to the news media. Tribal officials asked authorities not to make public pictures of the remains.
Scientists say the frozen remains of a prehistoric man in a Canadian glacier is a rare and intriguing discovery, but may not be old enough to help resolve the intensifying debate over how people arrived in North America.
Sources: CBS (25 August 99), Reuters (24 August 99)
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