PALEOBIOLOGY: Sushi to Go

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Science  30 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5684, pp. 575c
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5684.575c

The only ancient corpse to have been recovered from the ice of a North American glacier has provided a glimpse into human habits and diets of 500 to 600 years ago. Dickson et al. have pored over the gut contents of Kwäday Dän Ts'ìnchí, whose body was preserved with its intestinal tract intact in a glacier in the St. Elias Mountains in British Columbia. Although Kwäday died some 80 km inland, his gut contents suggested a largely coastal diet of intertidal saltmarsh plant material, a marine crustacean, chum salmon, and eggs of fish tapeworm. Stable isotope analysis of muscle and bone confirmed that his diet was largely of marine origin. The sequence of gut contents, as well as the plant remains on Kwäday's clothes, reveal that he journeyed inland in the days before his death, carrying with him a supply of seafood. The purpose of the journey, and how he met his untimely death on the glacier, are likely to remain a mystery. — AMS

Holocene 14, 481 (2004).

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