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VICTORIA, April 18, 2000 – Scientific research projects have begun on the human remains and some of the material recovered from the archeological site discovered in Tatshenshini-Alsek Park in northwestern B.C. last August.

Small Business, Tourism and Culture Minister Ian Waddell said one of the first research projects will be to reconstruct the man's DNA profile.

"Studying the human remains is just one component of the broad multi-disciplinary approach that’s being planned for this find. Scientists will be able to compare their findings with what is already known about North American indigenous peoples," said Waddell. "There’s much we can learn from the Kwaday Dän Sinchí discovery."

Researchers at the Royal British Columbia Museum have also begun work with other scientists to study and conserve the animal skin robe and the fish remains also found at the site. More projects are expected to begin over the coming months.

So far, research proposals involving over 30 scientists in England, Australia, the United States, Scotland and across Canada have been received. Funding from these proposals will allow research on the human biology component of the Kwaday Dän Sinchí project to move ahead within established timeframes.

It will take several months to complete the research now under way, and considerably longer before any findings are likely to be made public. Now that the research phase has begun, Waddell said, the ministry and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation can turn their attention to developing a broader research strategy for the future.

"It could be years before we learn all that we can from some of the research projects that have been proposed," said Waddell. "Along with allowing us a glimpse into the distant past, the legacy of Kwaday Dän Sinchí will stretch far ahead into the future."

Further research is also anticipated at the site of the discovery, in a glacial field in the northwest corner of British Columbia.

Radiocarbon dating has indicated the artifacts are roughly 550 years old, which confirms that the site dates back several centuries before the first local contact between First Nations and European culture.

In accordance with an agreement between the Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, the remains and associated materials have been housed at the Royal B.C. Museum until Dec. 31 to provide for scientific studies.

All research involving human remains is subject to strict ethical guidelines in Canada.

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Overview of Research Proposals

The Human Remains

  • DNA research to reconstruct the man’s DNA profile. This study is expected to provide scientists with the basis for a comparison with what is already known about North American indigenous peoples.
  • A study of trace elements in the man’s hair, to measure relative amounts of trace metals like zinc, lead, gold and cadmium. This should lead to information on the environment in which the man lived, and perhaps shed some light on his diet.

  • A detailed description of the human remains by a forensic pathologist.

  • A dietary study of bone and hair samples to determine whether the man’s diet was primarily marine or terrestrial-based, and how that may have changed through his lifetime.

Other Biological Remains

  • A study of the scales and DNA of the fish discovered at the site. This should provide information about the species of fish, its age and size, the time of year it was caught, and some clues about the prevailing environment.

  • An analysis of the botanical remains associated with the man, his belongings and the site, which is also expected to provide information on diet, and to shed light on where the man had travelled from before his death.

The Robe

Conservation of the animal-skin robe found with the human remains. Information that could be gained through this research includes: what type of animal skins the robe is made of and how the skins were sewn together to make the robe, as well as information from various material caught in the robe itself, like fish scales and plant remains.


For more information, contact:

Paige MacFarlane
Media Relations Manager
Communications Branch
Ministry of Small Business, Tourism and Culture
Victoria, B.C.

(250) 953-4692
(250) 812-4854 (cell)

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