An enigmatic wooden chest, discovered on the central Arctic tundra alongside several old graves and the rubble of long-ago campsites, has yielded up its sad secret to northern archeologists. But what Doug Stenton and his team found this summer when they peered past the rusty padlock sealing the weathered old box has only deepened the mystery around the site - and added a note of tragedy as well.

"We took a look inside and it quickly became apparent that there was the remains of a fairly young individual in there," said Stenton, Nunavut's chief archeologist.

The site was discovered in the summer of 2003 by a group of Inuit who were fishing and hunting caribou on the lakes and rolling tundra hills by the north channel of Baker Lake.

Nasty weather forced the group to hunker down for a few days and while they holed up, one of the men found evidence of an old campsite, three graves and a pile of large rocks in which the buried chest was visible.

This summer, Stenton and two other men made the two-hour boat journey from Baker Lake down Chesterfield Inlet to the site.

Strewn along the water's edge were at least three other graves and an assortment of artifacts Stenton estimated to be between 50 and 75 years old.

"Barrel hoops, pieces of metal stovepipe, wood, pieces of enamel cups and things like that," he said.


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