Otzi the Iceman (also spelled Oetzi and known also as Frozen Fritz) is the modern nickname of a well-preserved natural mummy of a man from about 3300 BC, found in 1991 in a glacier of the Otztal Alps, near the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from the valley of discovery. He rivals the Egyptian "Ginger" as the oldest known human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view on the habits of Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Europeans.
Otzi was found by two German tourists, Helmut and Erika Simon, on September 19, 1991. The body was at first thought to be a modern corpse, like several others which had been recently found in the region. It was roughly recovered by the Austrian authorities and taken to Innsbruck, where its true age was finally discovered. Subsequent surveys showed that the body had been located a few meters inside Italian territory. It is now on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bozen-Bolzano, Italy.
The body has been extensively examined, measured, x-rayed, and dated. Tissues and gut contents were examined microscopically, as was the pollen found on his gear. At the time of his death, Otzi was a 30-to-45-year old man, approximately 160 cm (5'3") tall.
Analysis of pollen and dust grains and the isotopic composition of his teeth's enamel indicate that he spent his childhood near the present village of Feldthurns, north of Bolzano, but later went to live in valleys about 50 km further north.
He had 57 tattoos, some of which were located on or near acupuncture points that coincide with the modern points that would be used to treat symptoms of diseases that Otzi seems to have suffered from, such as digestive parasites and osteoarthrosis. Some scientists believe that these tattoos indicate an early type of acupuncture.
His clothes, including a woven grass cloak and leather vest and shoes, were quite sophisticated.
The shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for top panels, and a netting made of tree bark. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like warm socks. The shoes have since been reproduced by experts and found to constitute such excellent footwear that there are plans for commercial production.
Other items found with the Iceman were a copper axe with a yew handle, a flint knife with an ash handle, a quiver full of arrows with viburnum and dogwood shafts and flint heads, and an unfinished yew longbow that was taller than he was.
Among Otzi's possessions were two species of polypore mushrooms. One of these (the birch fungus) is known to have antibacterial properties, and was likely used for medical purposes. The other was a type of tinder fungus, included with part of what appeared to be a complex firestarting kit. The kit featured pieces of over a dozen different plants, in addition to flint and pyrite for creating sparks.
In 2004, frozen bodies of three Austro-Hungarian soldiers killed during the Battle of San Matteo (1918) were found. One body was sent to a museum in the hope that research on how the environment affected its preservation will help to find out about Otzi's past and future evolution.
An ancient crime?
Analysis of …tzi's gut contents showed two meals, one of ibex meat, the second of red deer meat, both consumed with some grain. Pollen in the first meal showed that it had been consumed in a mid-altitude conifer forest.
DNA analysis revealed traces of blood from four other people on his gear: one from his knife, two from the same arrowhead, and a fourth from his coat. A CAT scan revealed that Otzi had what appeared to be an arrowhead lodged in one shoulder when he died, matching a small tear on his coat.
The arrow shaft had been removed, apparently by a companion. He also had bruises and cuts on his hands, wrists, and chest.
From such evidence, and an examination of his weapons, molecular biologist Thomas Loy from the University of Queensland believes that Otzi and one or two companions were hunters who engaged in a skirmish with a rival group. At some point, he may have carried (or been carried by) a companion. Weakened by blood loss, Otzi apparently put down his equipment neatly against a rock, lay down and expired.
Before the latest evidence, it was speculated that, rather than fleeing attackers, he was ritually killed to propitiate a god or gods, or that he was a chieftain and therefore ritually killed to ensure fertility. One of the most fanciful theories was that he was in fact an Egyptian who had been ritually castrated. Later examination, however, revealed that, though shrunken by the mummification, Otzi did in fact possess a penis.
Seven people loosely related to …tzi's discovery or research have subsequently died, leading some to believe in a curse while others believe that mountain climbers are risk takers and often die early of accidental causes. It should be noted that there are other numerous researchers and scientists working closely with …tzi's body who have not died in the 14 years since his discovery.
2. The second "victim" is mountaineer Kurt Fritz, who led Dr. Henn and the others to the iceman's body and later gave tours to the site. Like other experienced climbers, he died in an avalanche at a mountain region he was familiar with.
3. Austrian journalist Rainer Hoelzl was the third "victim". He exclusively covered the removal of the body as part of a one-hour documentary that was shown around the world. But he developed a mystery illness - thought to be a brain tumor - that claimed his life in extreme pain a few months after the programme was shown.
4. The fourth "victim" is the German tourist Helmut Simon, who found the body. The hiker returned to the region to celebrate winning a £50,000 court battle over rights to the mummy. He set out in fine weather but a blizzard set in and he fell approximately 100 meters into a deep ravine, some 200 kilometers from the place where Otzi perished. He had not signed the court papers so his widow did not get the £50,000.
5. Dieter Warnecke was the head of the mountain rescue team that searched for Helmut Simon. He died at age 45 of a heart attack less than an hour after Helmut Simon was buried.
6. The 6th victim was archaeologist Konrad Spindler - the leading expert on the 5,300-year-old corpse. The Austrian expert had dismissed the link between the five previous deaths. He declared: "I think it's a load of rubbish. It is all a media hype. The next thing you will be saying I will be next." He died in April 2005 at age 66 of ALS, a pre-existing chronic condition.
7. In October 2005 the "curse" claimed its seventh "victim" - the 63-year old Dr Tom Loy died prior to finishing a book on Otzi. He was the seventh person to die who had been in close contact with the mummy.
The Innsbruck professor Friedrich Tiefenbrunner died during open-heart surgery in January 2005. Tiefenbrunner belonged to Spindler's team and had found a method to protect Otzi's mummy against bacterial and fungal attack.
Otzi Wikipedia and Related Websites
Otzi the Iceman's Dark Secrets: Protein Investigation Supports Brain Injury Theory Science Daily - June 10, 2013
Using just a pinhead-sized sample of brain tissue from the world-famous glacier corpse, the team was able to extract and analyze proteins to further support the theory that Otzi suffered some form of brain damage in the final moments of his life 5,300 years ago.
Neolithic Iceman Otzi Had Bad Teeth Science Daily - April 10, 2013
Periodontitis, Tooth Decay, Accident-Related Dental Damage in Ice Mummy - The latest scientific findings provide interesting information on the dietary patterns of the Neolithic Iceman and on the evolution of medically significant oral pathologies.
Oetzi the Iceman's blood is world's oldest BBC - May 2 2012
Researchers studying Oetzi, a 5,300-year-old body found frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991, have found red blood cells around his wounds. Blood cells tend to degrade quickly, and earlier scans for blood within Oetzi's body turned up nothing.
Oetzi the Iceman's nuclear genome gives new insights BBC - February 28, 2012
New clues have emerged in what could be described as the world's oldest murder case: that of Oetzi the "Iceman", whose 5,300-year-old body was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991. Oetzi's full genome has now been reported in Nature Communications. It reveals that he had brown eyes, "O" blood type, was lactose intolerant, and was predisposed to heart disease. They also show him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium. Analysis of series of anomalies in the Iceman's DNA also revealed him to be more closely related to modern inhabitants of Corsica and Sardinia than to populations in the Alps, where he was unearthed.
Genetic analysis reveals Otzi Iceman predisposed to cardiovascular disease PhysOrg - February 28, 2012
Scientific magazine Nature Communications publishes new findings about physiognomy, ethnic origin and predisposition towards illness of the world's oldest glacier mummy.
The Iceman Mummy: Finally Face to Face Discovery - February 25, 2011
Brown-eyed, bearded, furrow faced, and tired: this is how …tzi the Iceman might have looked, according to the latest reconstruction based on 20 years of research and investigations. Realized by two Dutch experts, Alfons and Adrie Kennis, the model was produced with the latest in forensic mapping technology that uses three-dimensional images of the mummy's skull as well as infrared and tomographic images. The new reconstruction shows a prematurely old man, with deep-set eyes, sunken cheeks, a furrowed face and ungroomed beard and hair. Although he looks tired, …tzi has vivid brown eyes. Indeed, recent research on the 5,300-year-old mummy has shown that the Stone Age man did not have blue eyes as previously thought. Believed to have died around the age of 45, …tzi was about 1.60 meters (5 foot, 3 inches) tall and weighed 50 kilograms (110 pounds).
Oetzi the Iceman may have been buried, says team BBC - August 26, 2010
Otzi, the 5,000 year old "Iceman" found in the Italian Alps, may have been ceremonially buried, archaeologists say. An autopsy showed that Otzi had been murdered, dying of an arrow wound. While this is not disputed, a new study suggests that months after his death, O3tzi's corpse was carried to the high mountain pass where it was found. The discovery site therefore may not be a murder scene after all, but a burial ground.
Gene Map to Give Insight into 5,200-year-old Iceman Live Science - August 5, 2010
Iceman, the Neolithic mummy found accidentally in the Eastern Alps by German hikers in 1991, has offered researchers all sorts of clues to life 5,200 years ago, from his goat-hide coat to the meat and unleavened bread in his stomach to the arrow wound in his shoulder.
Oetzi iceman's tattoos came from fireplace MSNBC - July 17, 2009
The 57 tattoos sported by Otzi, the 5300-year-old Tyrolean iceman mummy, were made from fireplace soot that contained glittering, colorful precious stone crystals, according to an upcoming study in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The determination supports prior research that the tattoos were associated with acupuncture treatments for chronic ailments suffered by the iceman, whose frozen body was found remarkably well preserved in the Similaun Glacier of the Alps in 1991. The findings also suggest how prehistoric people were tattooed in the days before commercial inks and electric tattooing machines.
World's oldest tattoos were made of soot New Scientist - July 16, 2009
Head Trauma Contributed to Iceman's Demise National Geographic - September 1, 2007
Iceman Wore Cattle, Sheep Hides; May Have Been a Herder National Geographic - August 21, 2008
Infertility link in iceman's DNA BBC - February 3, 2006
Examination of his remains has already revealed the Copper Age man almost certainly died as a result of a fight. The assessment is based on the presence of an arrowhead that is lodged in his back and extensive cuts to his hands. The scientists behind the latest genetic research now speculate that Oetzi's possible sterility could have been a factor that led to this violent end.
Death renews iceman 'curse' claim BBC - November 5, 2005
The death of a molecular biologist has fuelled renewed speculation about a "curse" connected to an ancient corpse. Tom Loy, 63, had analysed DNA found on "Oetzi", the Stone Age hunter whose remains were discovered in 1991. Dr Loy died in unclear circumstances in Australia two weeks ago, it has been announced, making him the seventh person connected with Oetzi to die. Colleagues and family of Dr Loy have rejected the notion that he was the victim of a "curse". It is not known how many people have worked on the Oetzi project - and whether the death rate is statistically high.
Deciphering the Origin, Travels of "Iceman" October 30, 2003 National Geographic
A 46-year-old man entombed by a glacier about 5,200 years ago high in the mountains that border Austria and Italy probably spent his entire life within a 37-mile (60-kilometer) range south of where he came to his final rest, according to a new study.
Oetzi - Iceman's final meal BBC - September 16, 2002
The last two meals eaten by the 5,300-year-old iceman, dubbed Oetzi, have been revealed by scientists. Analysis of the contents of the Stone Age human's intestines shows he probably dined on venison just before his death, having previously consumed cereals, plants, and ibex meat. Oetzi's mummified remains emerged from a melting glacier in the Italian Alps in 1991, since when he has undergone intense examination.
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Head Trauma Contributed to Iceman's Demise National Geographic - September 1, 2007