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Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí

A man from a melting Canadian glacier


Three Canadian sheep hunters made a remarkable discovery on August 14, 1999 when they found the mummified body of what scientists first thought was an ancient man (who they believed had died between 3,500 and 12,000 years ago) on the slopes of a melting glacier located in the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park in British Columbia (about 1000 miles north of Vancouver). Soon named Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí (sometimes spelled Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí or Kwaday Dan Sinchi and often abbreviated KDT), his discovery is quite similar to that of Ötzi the Iceman in Europe a few years before.

The hunters noticed a stick lying on the snow--an unusual sight at the altitude. The 18-inch piece of wood, they realized, was part of a walking stick; other pieces lay nearby. As they explored the area, they discovered an atlatl (part of an ancient spear) and other items, before noticing the body.

The man's body was found in two parts and was fairly well-preserved. The torso was headless and missing the right arm. The lower body was missing the right leg below the knee. The man was wearing dark brown leather clothes, now tattered

According to one person who saw the body, the body "appears to have fallen, wedged upright in a crevasse. That remains the biggest danger in the area today. In the springtime, there is old snow hiding in these crevasses--you are walking along and you are gone."

Juanita (also known as "The Ice Maiden") was discovered on the top of Mount Ampato near Arequipa, Peru, on September 8, 1995 by Johan Reinhard and his assistant, Miguel Zarate. She was 12 to 14 years old when she was sacrificed and is believed to have died about 500 years ago.

Although she was frozen in the frigid temperatures on Mount Ampato, her body was discovered because a nearby volcano had caused Ampato's snowcap to melt. Her burial site, which had collapsed and cascaded down the mountain slope, also revealed many items left as offerings to the gods. Two other children's bodies were discovered on Ampato during a second expedition in October 1995. Another mummy was found on a subsequent expedition in November 1997; it was buried approximately a mile from the site of Juanita's discovery.


How the mummy was named

The official name given to the man is Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí (sometimes abbreviated KDT) which means "long ago person found" in the Southern Tutchone language of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, on whose reservation the body was discovered. All discoveries in the park are legally under the control of the tribe.


What the research revealed

Officials of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations allowed KDT to be studied scientifically. 

His clothing was carbon-dated. Early carbon-14 tests on the man's hat and cloak indicate that he died somewhere between the years AD 1415 and 1445. (The reasoning is: If his hat and cloak date to that time, his body must, too.) Later test results, now accepted, indicated instead that he died between 1670 and 1850.

His DNA was sampled. Reportedly the first test to be conducted was DNA profiling. Some tribe members wished to know more about Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí's ancestry. To accommodate their request, officials agreed that DNA samples could be taken from volunteers with First Nations heritage and compared to Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí's DNA. Accordingly, 248 volunteers from the First Nations supplied DNA samples. Of these, 17 people were found to be direct descendants of KDT, sharing a common female ancestor. Most likely the families of these 17 people are related to KDT as well. And many other First Nation members may be related which can be revealed through a more wide-ranging DNA sample. Amazingly, 15 of the 17 relatives are members of the Wolf clan which scientists believe indicates that KDT was also a member of the clan.  

Other findings. Research into remains of Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí indicates that he was about 20 years old (give or take a few years) and did not apparently suffer from any disease. Although he was dressed warmly, researchers believe that he was caught in a heavy snowstorm and died from exposure.

At first, researchers thought that he had died in a fall, but the latest findings indicate otherwise.

Ongoing tests include:


What happened to the mummy

In May 2001, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations decided to cremate the remains ofKwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí. His remains were housed in the Royal British Columbia Museum. According to the Associated Press, elders of the tribes wished to bury KDT without any further delay. A special cremation ceremony was held during the summer of 2001.

During the planning of the ceremony, the disposition of all artifacts found with the body was discussed. Some tribal members wanted all artifacts to be cremated along with the body; others believed that the objects should be preserved. In the end, except for one item, all other artifacts were preserved and apparently are housed at the Royal BC Museum, though they are apparently not displayed. 

A spokesman for the Champagne and Aishihik First Nation said that, "It is time to do things right and lay this man to rest."


What's special about the mummy

1. His age. Although he's not a 10,000-year-old mummy as many hoped, scientists are still excited by the news: no mummy in this condition from the late 1600-1800s has been found in North America, and his discovery will add a great deal of information to what scientists and historians know about the native peoples of western Canada. Now that he has been dated, tribe officials agreed to determine if he has any descendants in the tribe (this involves DNA analysis and matching). 

2. His equipment. Like Ötzi, Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí was discovered with numerous artifacts which has been useful to investigators. Some were clearly his possessions (a hat, a robe, a knife, a leather pouch). However, it is now generally agreed that many of the items found near him were not related to him at all.


Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí Artifacts

Ötzi the Iceman's Artifacts


a cedar-root woven hat with broad brim

a carved wooden walking stick (in pieces)

a spear

a bone knife in leather sheath

pieces of buckskin fringe (part of the sheath?)

a fur-covered mitten or shoe

a robe made from ground  squirrel

a leather food pouch (containing leaves and remnants of chub salmon)



a bow and arrows, with quiver

an axe

the wooden frame and cords of a backpack (pannier)

ibex bones

two birch-bark containers

knife with woven sheath

a belt pouch

tassel with stone bead

a medicine bag (with medicinal fungus)

other tools



More information about the mummy

No complete books have yet been written about Kwaday Dan Ts’ìnchí, but the book Bodies from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past contains a chapter about KDT. The Royal BC Museum co-sponsored a symposium on Long Ago Person Found in April 2008 and plans to publish an academic book containing the papers that were presented.

You might also find Ancient Ice Mummies useful, since it contains a discussion of both Long Ago Person Found and Ötzi the Iceman from the Alps. From Amazon: "One of the world's foremost authorities on glacier mummies explores their curious preservation and unravels the clues they have left locked in ice and frozen in time, in this engaging, illustrated book."

Magazine articles in National Geographic,Discover, or Archaeology are possibilities sometime in the near future. In the meantime, you might look for Heather Pringle's article, "Out of the Ice" published in Canadian Geographic (July/August 2002, pp. 57–64).

But do not expect to see photographs of KDT; journalists were not allowed to publish any photos of the body after his discovery, out of respect for the deceased.