About 550 years old
Carbon dating determines age of Tat Man

Richard Mostyn
Special from the Yukon News

VICTORIA, B.C. (Oct 04/99) - Around 1449, high in the St. Elias Mountains, hunter Kwaday Dan Sinchi began crossing a glacier.

He stepped onto the glacier just three years before Leonardo da Vinci's birth, well before Columbus had even begun to plan his historic Atlantic crossing to the New World in 1492.

Sometime later, perhaps while crossing a snow bridge, Kwaday Dan Sinchi plunged to his death in a glacial crevasse.

Then, just a month ago, a trio of three British Columbia sheep hunters found his remains sticking out of the ice in northern British Columbia's Tat-Alsek Wilderness Park.

Now, following carbon dating on his hat and cloak, scientists have pegged the body at 550 years old, give or take 40 years.

It's not as old as some people had hoped (original estimates suggested the body might be 5,000 years old), but it's still a great find, said Diane Strand, the heritage resource officer of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation. In fact, the find is exciting for several reasons, she said.

"It's really exciting to us. It's not disappointing at all. We have the oral histories and now science will meld in with it. That's the exciting thing, the old and new merging together."

Last year, while walking in the Kusawa region, in her grandfather's old stomping grounds, Strand looked down and found a fragment of a throwing spear that later turned out to be 6,000 years old.

"It was most exciting. Words cannot describe how I felt. I was holding a piece of art thousands of years old. It could have been my great, great, great, great, great relative's."

The more recent find is "just as exciting," she added. "I want the rest (of the First Nation) to have that same feeling. I hope to display the artifacts, and have them get that sense of ownership and appreciation of the past."

Almost all band members have to have training in the First Nation's early history, noted Strand.

Today, Kwaday Dan Sinchi is in a freezer in Victoria. A co-management team, comprised of members of the band and representatives of the B.C. government, is beginning to plan how the body will be studied by a team of international scientists.

That research is not expected to begin for another four to six months.

By December, 2000, provided the research is complete, the body will be buried in accordance with First Nation custom.