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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK


Ice mummy investigation goes ahead

The ice man's hat and fur cloak suggests a cold climate

The investigation of the frozen body of a prehistoric man found in a Canadian glacier this week has begun.

[ image: A leg shows the good preservation]
A leg shows the good preservation
The man's flesh has been preserved along with his possessions, including a fur cloak, a broad-brimmed hat, a walking stick, a spear and a leather pouch filled with fish and edible leaves.

The mummy was found in a rapidly melting glacier in Tatshenshini Park, just south of the Yukon-British Columbia border in Canada.

The Champagne and Aishuhik First Nations in west Canada have claimed the ancient man as their ancestor. But tribal elders say they will support research efforts on the remains, in contrast to tribal opposition that has blocked research on other finds.

Initial examinations of the remains say it is comparable to a 5,300-year old frozen hunter found in the Alps in 1991.

But says Amy Dansie of the Nevada State Museum: "When you have something very dry or very frozen you can't estimate its date based on the state of preservation."

[ image: The man travelled with a spear, as well as a walking stick]
The man travelled with a spear, as well as a walking stick
How long ago the man lived is crucial. If it was only 5,000 years ago, the find will not shed much light on how the first settlers arrived in North America. This is thought to have happened between 15,000 and 40,000 years ago.

"It's great to have somebody from this far north," said Robson Bonnichsen, director of the Center for the Study of the First Americans at Oregon State University. "We just don't know where he fits into the picture yet. Getting an accurate date is essential."

This will be done by radiocarbon dating. A variety of other tests, including analyzing his ancient DNA and X-rays of his skeleton, can reveal the man's health and diet, as well as his culture, way of life and the environment in which he lived.

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