The archeological sensation: Ötzi the Iceman

On 19th September 1991 German hikers discovered an ancient mummified human body in the Similaun Glacier in the Tirolean Ötztal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border. The hollow in which the person had laid down to die had been covered and protected by glacial ice which preserved the body. As the ice was melting in the 90s the body was unveiled. After the remarkable discovery, researchers found that the body had been preserved in the ice for 5,300 years making it older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.

As research continued on the body more discoveries were made. An X-ray examination in 2001 showed that an arrowhead was lodged in the Iceman’s left shoulder. It had hit a main artery and he probably bled to death within minutes. However, the man had also been suffering from many other infections. In 2007 researchers discovered that his body had been infested with whipworm and he was suffering from arthritis. A 2012 study of the body revealed that he was also infected with Lyme Disease. Before dying he had taken a medicinal herb called hop hornbeam suggesting that he may have been suffering from nausea or stomach upset.

But why was he shot in the back with an arrow?

Detective Chief Inspector Alexander Horn of the Munich Police Department was requested by Angelika Fleckinger, director of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, to investigate. 

Written in a BBC report Horn states:

“About half an hour before he was killed, he was having a rest up there. He was having quite a heavy lunch… so it doesn’t seem like he was in a rush or fleeing from something.”

An injury on his right hand – a wound he had received one or two days before his death, probably during a fight suggested that it was a “classic active defence wound.” Horn believes he won this initial fight which possibly took place down in the valley.

“What we think… is that the killing up on the glacier is probably the continuation of this fight that happened about one-and-a-half days before.” So Ötzi’s killer probably followed him and shot him. 

Extended research also revealed more about the clothing and culture of that prehistoric time. It was found his clothing was an unlined fur robe stitched together from pieces of ibex, chamois and deer skin. He had a woven grass cap which protected him from the cold and his shoes were made of leather with grass. He was equipped with a small copper-bladed ax, a flint dagger, 14 arrows with a fur arrow quiver and a bow made of yew, a grass net which served as a sack, a leather pouch and a U-shaped wooden frame that may have served as a backpack to carry this gear. 

Analysis of the bones suggests that the man was around 46. Due to the fact that he was using a valuable copper axe suggests that he was a member of the more progressive culture at that time rather than part of the primitive hunter-culture. Animal hair from his clothing came from domesticated animals, according to a 2008 study, suggesting he herded sheep, cows and goats.

There is also evidence that the man had many tattoos on his skin making him also ahead of his time. In 2015 researchers spotted short blue lines on his skin which have been interpreted as the earliest known tattoos. Researchers have counted that the man had 61 tattoos grouped across 19 body parts.

He was nicknamed Ötzi after being found on the Ötzal Alps and has been exhibited at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy since 1998. He is one of the oldest and best-preserved mummies on Earth.

Did you know about Ötzi the Iceman? Being older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge, do you think it should be in the limelight more? Have you seen the film Iceman (2017)? Let me know in the comments

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