Episode available within Canada only.

A mystery is emerging out the Yukon ice: human hunting tools hidden for as long as 9,000 years have started to melt out. And each new find is another piece to the puzzle of who these people were.

Greg Hare is the archeologist who was there for the recovery of the very first artifact in 1996. Twenty years later he’s finding more than ever – because the melt has intensified. 

icepack find

Archeologist Greg Hare with one of his ice patch finds.

He holds up a weathered birch shaft with part of a stone point still lashed into the end.

“This was a piece of somebody’s weaponry that was lost – I think it’s about 2,000 years old.” 

“My mind immediately goes to ‘what’s the story behind it,” says Math’ieya Alatini, chief of the Kluane First Nation. The appearance of the First Nations is a twist in the plot: they feel these artifacts are pieces of their own history. For them, the archeology is personal.

Thousands of kilometres away, Dr. Martin Callanan has had his own success in the Norwegian Alpine. The melt conditions were the same as the Yukon, and the artifacts were there – by the hundreds.

WEB EXCLUSIVE: Melting ice is helping the Sami, indigenous people of Scandinavia, reclaim parts of their culture and history that had been suppressed.

“It’s its own special field,” says Callanan. “But there is immediacy to this research, because climate models suggest that in the next decades many sites will be lost to melting and decay.”

The Norwegian finds all date back to the Viking era and once Callanan started looking, the stuff was everywhere.

But the one thing they haven’t found in Norway, that changed the narrative in Canada, is a human body. In 1999 some hunters found the remains of a young man melting out of the ice.

SCENE FROM THE FILM: The remains of a young man are found in the Yukon ice.

“You now have a body,” says Diane Strand of the Champagne Aishihik FN, “you now have a human being, you now have a relative.”

He was named Kwäday Dän Ts'ìnchi: Long Ago Man Found. The discovery made worldwide news as the First Nations took custody of the remains. Scientists could have access to his body and artifacts, but after that, he’d be cremated.

This story has never been told on film before: the remains of KDT’s stomach were preserved enough to plot out his last meals, and where he’d eaten them. He was travelling when he died on the ice. His clothing, his tools – all of them together created the narrative of a man who lived before the time of contact. It was unprecedented.

And then it got better: tests showed that his DNA matched 17 different living people within the first nations. The messages from the past resonated louder than ever.

Canada’s Northern Ice Patches Yield Clues About How First Nations Ancestors Hunted To Survive
Finding Yukon’s Archeological Treasures From Space
Melting Ice Reveals Secrets About Human History
How Yukon's melting ice reveals human artifacts and Indigenous history, CBC Radio: The Current

Our story will culminate with the latest finds from the ’16 field season. It was a success: several new discoveries, some of them unlike anything ever found before in the Yukon.

“I’m not exaggerating to say that most archeologists would die and found they’d gone to heaven to be able to find something like this,” says Hare. “The opportunity to find something like this that’s just melted out of the ice after a thousand years, it’s just incredible.” 


Credits (Click to expand)

Produced, Written And Directed By
Andrew Gregg

Executive Producer
Gordon Henderson

Edited By
Geoff Matheson

Director Of Photography
Michael Grippo, Csc

Sound Recordist
Michael Josselyn

Original Music
Bruce Fowler

Production Manager
Susanne Cuffe

Audio Mix
Mike Duncan


Additional Photography
Øystein Moe
Michael Josselyn


Additional Sound Recording
Stian Eriksen

Additional Audio Mix
Shane Duncan

Edit Assistant
Chris Matheson

Andrew Gregg

Visual Research
Gina Cali

Mario Baptista

Noah Conti

Archival Material
Al Mackie
Allan Code, Nahho Productions Yukon
Autonomous Province Of Trento; Archive Of The Archaeological Heritage Office
Hilario Aguilar, Museo Casa La Magnolia
South Tyrol Museum Of Archaeoloy/Georg Zeller
CBC Archives Sales / Archives Radio-Canada
Chip Clark, Smithsonian
Brittney Tatchell, Smithsonian
Delmar Washington
Kristin Kuzyk
Champagne & Aishihik First Nations - Sarah Gaunt


Special Thanks
Kluane National Park And Reserve, Parks Canada
Teslin Tlingit Council
Kwanlin Dün First Nations
Ta’an Kwach’an Council
Carcross Tagish First Nation
Champagne And Aishihik First Nations
Kluane First Nation
Keith Wolfe Smarch
Vic Istchenko
Max Fraser
Government Of Yukon Department Of Tourism And Culture
Mike Fuller
Alpine Veterinary Clinic
Simon Fraser University
Graham Cave State Park, Missouri
Missouri Atlatl Association
University Of Trondheim
Dovrefjell-Sunndalsfjella National Park, Norway

produced by

© 2017 90th Parallel Productions Ltd.

for the CBC

general manager, programming
Sally Catto

executive director, unscripted content
Jennifer Dettman

senior director, documentary
Sandra Kleinfeld

executive in charge of production
Sue Dando

director of production, unscripted content
Alexandra Lane

director of finance, unscripted content
Julie Lawlor

The Nature of Things
with David Suzuki

produced by
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation


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