A British Columbia hunter who was looking for sheep last week didn’t expect to find another person from many, many years ago.
Bill Hanlon, 37, from Sparwood, B.C., was one of the three Dall sheep hunters who found the ancient remains of a person frozen in ice in Tatshenshini Park, just below the Yukon/B.C. border.
Hanlon and two other hunters, Mike Roch and Warren Ward, were hiking along a high pass in the park. Hanlon said in a telephone interview today they were walking along rocks next to an ice patch when they saw odd-shaped pieces of wood.
On closer inspection, the trio saw the wood was carved.
“We started saying, ‘This looks pretty neat,’” Hanlon said.
That was when one of the men spotted a patch of fur in the ice. Hanlon said the fur turned out to be either a pack or a coat from which they pulled out a tool.
Then they saw the body.
“We noticed a hip bone (protruding from the ice),” he said. The hip bone had been decomposing, so it felt rubbery and spongy.
The hunters could see the bone was connected to other bones in the ice. He saw there was flesh on the bones, although he wasn’t sure what it was initially.
“We didn’t know at the time it was flesh,” said Hanlon.
“We were kind of not sure what we were looking at.”
Then they spotted the lower part of the body in the ice.
“The lower torso, we could tell, was in the ice and there was flesh on that,” he said.
While they could see the lower part of the body, he said, they didn’t spot the head or upper torso.
Hanlon said looking at the frozen body was “kind of on the spooky side.”
The hunters felt it was a very old body.
“We agreed that (it was) definitely old. You just don’t get stuck in a glacier everyday (these days),” he said.
The three hunters picked up a few artifacts, including pieces of wood, and hiked back to their truck, which took about 20 hours. They took note of where they found the site. Hanlon
said they decided to take the artifacts to someone who might figure out what they found.
They got into Whitehorse on Aug. 16. The group found out about the Beringia Centre and took the artifacts there.
“So we wandered in there and they got pretty excited, pretty quick,” Hanlon said. He noted the centre has replicas of certain artifacts on display, and they walked in with the real thing.
The hunters made a map for archeologists to find the site, which they located easily by helicopter.
Hanlon is now back in his home near the B.C./Alberta border. He is awaiting to find out more about what they discovered on the trip from the experts. The situation,he said, is “getting more exciting all the time.”
In the meantime, he has been fielding calls from friends who are much more interested in hearing about the discovery of the ancient body than hearing about the two sheep the hunters bagged on their expedition.
Reporter Jason Small