Scientists find 17 descendants of ‘iceman’ found in glacier

Posted by admin on Apr 28, 2008

Scientists have found 17 living relatives of a centuries-old “iceman,” whose remains were discovered in a melting glacier in northern British Columbia nine years ago.

The remains of a young aboriginal man were found frozen inside a glacier in the Champagne-Aishihik territory in August 1999. Scientists gave the man the nickname Kwaday Dan Ts’inchi, which means “long-ago person found” in the southern Tutchone language.

DNA testing has now connected the iceman to a number of people living in the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations in the North. The results were unveiled Friday at a science conference in Victoria, where all aspects of the discovery are being discussed.

Scientists believe Kwaday Dan Ts’inchi was a hunter, who lived roughly 300 years ago — but possibly longer. He appeared to be in good health when he, for some reason, died an accidental death on the glacier.

Among the findings, researchers have determined:

• He was in his late teens or early 20s when he died.
• He wore a robe, likely made from about 95 gopher or squirrel skins, stitched together with sinew.
• He carried a walking stick, an iron-blade knife and a spearthrower.

But who he was and where he was going remains a mystery, scientists said. A few of the hunter’s artifacts are displayed at the Royal BC Museum, while his remains were cremated and his ashes scattered over the glacier where he died.

“He was certainly travelling. He had certainly been in different places, in different environments, just a few days before,” said Richard Hebda, a curator at the museum.

“If you think of seafood, it doesn’t stay long — yet he had seafood [and] crab in his digestive system,” Hebda said.

Chief Diane Strand, of the Champagne and Ashihik First Nations, led a project to search for the young man’s descendants.

She said 241 native people from B.C., Yukon and Alaska gave DNA samples for testing and the results produced 17 positive matches.

“All of those 17 people, and potentially their families, have the same common female ancestor as Kwaday himself,” Strand said Friday.

Pearl Callaghan and her sister Sheila Clark, of Teslin, Yukon, were among those who gave a DNA sample. Callaghan said she was told about the results a few days ago.

“The blood sample proved it that through the mitocondrial DNA that the long-ago person and myself and my sister … We’re related. It was very moving [and] overwhelming,” Callaghan said Friday.

“I think this is going to be a very grounding experience,” Clark said. “We all want to know our history and know that we are connected this way to somebody.”

From CBC News

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