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News Release 3 "Who's Buried in the Ice?"
September 15, 1999

Radiocarbon Dates In for Kwaday Dän Sinchi
September 28, 1999

Victoria, British Columbia, and Champagne, Yukon
Initial radiocarbon dating indicates the artifacts found at the Kwaday Dän Sinchi site in Tashenshini-Alsek National Park are roughly 550 years old.

"This latest piece of information makes the Kwaday Dän Sinchi find just that much more interesting--particularly now that we know for sure that the site dates back several centuries before the first known contact between First Nations and European culture," Culture Minister Ian Waddell said today.

Two samples--one from the hat, and another from the cloak belonging to the ancient person--were sent to a lab in Florida last month for radiocarbon dating.

According to the radiocarbon lab, both samples yielded dates that were statistically the same, within an accuracy of 95 percent. This means the material used to make the hat and the animal skins for the robe were harvested around the same time. That time would have been somewhere between A.D. 1415 and A.D. 1445.

A third radiocarbon measurement on a sample taken from a moose carcass also found in the area indicates the animal died in the 1960s and therefore is not associated with the older artifacts found at the site.

The new information suggests the Kwaday Dän Sinchi person met his demise more than 50 years before Columbus was making his historic voyages to what was then considered by Europeans to be the New World--and over 300 years before the first known European contact on the Northwest Coast.

The 550-year estimate increases the significance of the find. Human remains in a frozen state dating to pre-contact times are extremely rare, as are the associated well-preserved artifacts made from organic materials.

Champagne and Aishihik First Nations Chief Bob Charlie said he is especially pleased with the dating results. "At this age, Kwaday Dän Sinchi has great potential for tying in with the oral history of the area and with local knowledge of pre-contact clothing, tools, and land use patterns."

A management team is developing a research strategy for the human remains, now in the care of the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria. The team will be ready to accept study proposals by the new year.


© 1999 by the Archaeological Institute of America