OTZI, THE ICEMAN
One image of Otzi The Iceman is the name given to the mummified body of a was found in near a glacier near the border of Italy and Austria. He is the best-preserved prehistoric man ever discovered with his own equipment and clothing. Most ancient human remains are found in burial chambers with carefully selected objected rather than what they use in everyday life. In Europe he is called Ötzi (rhymes with Tootsie) after the Ötzal Alps where he was found. [Source: Stephen Hall, National Geographic, July 2007; Bob Cullem Smithsonian, February 2003; David Roberts, National Geographic, June 1993 ]
Some have called the discovery of 5,500-year-old Otzi one of the most spectacular archaeological discoveries of the 20th century. He is oldest intact human ever found. With the exception of missing toenails, all but one fingernail and an outer layer of skin the Iceman is otherwise perfectly reserved. His body and the tools and clothes found with him have given great insight into a people and age of which little is known in details never preciously imagined.
After Otzi was discovered the world became caught up in Iceman ania. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and other major publications. T-shirts and jewelry were sold with his sunken eyed beaming out. Pop songs were written about him. A German astrologer announced she was writing a book about her seánces with the Iceman. Other women clamored to be the first to be impregnated with sperm from Ötzi’s testicles. Mitochondrial DNA was extracted from Otzi’s bones. A company called Oxford Ancestors, for a fee, will compare your DNA with Otzi’s to see if you are related.
See Separate Article OTZI’S DEATH AND FINAL HOURS factsanddetails.com . Categories with related articles in this website: First Villages, Early Agriculture and Bronze, Copper and Late Stone Age Humans (33 articles) factsanddetails.com; Modern Humans 400,000-20,000 Years Ago (35 articles) factsanddetails.com; Mesopotamian History and Religion (35 articles) factsanddetails.com; Mesopotamian Culture and Life (38 articles) factsanddetails.com
Websites and Resources on Prehistory: Wikipedia article on Prehistory Wikipedia ; Early Humans elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; Prehistoric Art witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHprehistoric ; Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Iceman Photscan iceman.eurac.edu/ ; Otzi Official Site iceman.it Websites and Resources of Early Agriculture and Domesticated Animals: Britannica britannica.com/; Wikipedia article History of Agriculture Wikipedia ; History of Food and Agriculture museum.agropolis; Wikipedia article Animal Domestication Wikipedia ; Cattle Domestication geochembio.com; Food Timeline, History of Food foodtimeline.org ; Food and History teacheroz.com/food ;
Archaeology News and Resources: Anthropology.net anthropology.net : serves the online community interested in anthropology and archaeology; archaeologica.org archaeologica.org is good source for archaeological news and information. Archaeology in Europe archeurope.com features educational resources, original material on many archaeological subjects and has information on archaeological events, study tours, field trips and archaeological courses, links to web sites and articles; Archaeology magazine archaeology.org has archaeology news and articles and is a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America; Archaeology News Network archaeologynewsnetwork is a non-profit, online open access, pro- community news website on archaeology; British Archaeology magazine british-archaeology-magazine is an excellent source published by the Council for British Archaeology; Current Archaeology magazine archaeology.co.uk is produced by the UK’s leading archaeology magazine; HeritageDaily heritagedaily.com is an online heritage and archaeology magazine, highlighting the latest news and new discoveries; Livescience livescience.com/ : general science website with plenty of archaeological content and news. Past Horizons : online magazine site covering archaeology and heritage news as well as news on other science fields; The Archaeology Channel archaeologychannel.org explores archaeology and cultural heritage through streaming media; Ancient History Encyclopedia ancient.eu : is put out by a non-profit organization and includes articles on pre-history; Best of History Websites besthistorysites.net is a good source for links to other sites; Essential Humanities essential-humanities.net: provides information on History and Art History, including sections Prehistory
The Iceman lived in 3300 B.C., according to radiocarbon dating, which places him in between Copper and Bronze Age, when metals were first regularly used for tools and weapons. He He had medium length wavy dark hair and wore a beard. Ötzi was likely like a farmer of a shepherd. Some speculate he was a shaman based on presence of tattoos on his body.
Otzi had brown eyes and a gap between his teeth. Estimates suggest that at the time of his sudden, violent death, he stood about 1.65 metres (5 ft 5 in) tall, and weighed about 50 kilos (110 lbs). He likely spent most of his life farming and herding, and was probably suffering from a painful stomach ache at the time of his death in the Öztal Alps. After more than 25 years of intensive scientific research and extensive media coverage, he is arguably “Europe’s Oldest Celebrity.” [Source: Kristin Romey, National Geographic, August 18, 2016]
After doing CT scans on the body and performing microscopic examinations of a piece of bone, scientists determined that Ötzi was between 40 to 50 years old. The scientists based their estimate on the presence of degenerative arthritis indicated in the bones and blood vessels. One scientist on team that did the investigation told National Geographic, “Bone and blood vessels within us constantly change throughout life. We were able to see those changes and use them to determine age.”
DNA Study Revelations About Otzi’s Heritage
Ötzi’s genome, produced a surprising result: he was more closely related to present-day Sardinians than he was to present-day Central Europeans that live close to where he was found.. Angela Graefen, a human genetics researcher at the Eurac Institute for the Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, told Reuter. “He is more closely related to modern Sardinian or Corsican populations than, for instance, mainland Italy further to the south.But that doesn’t mean he comes from Sardinia or Corsica. His ancestors were more plausibly from the first wave of migrants from the Near East. The genome group stuck in the isolated regions which were less affected by human migrations, Mediterranean islands but also remote Alpine valleys.” [Source: Michel Rose, Reuters, March 2, 2012]
Thanks to Y-chromosome DNA found in Otzi’s left hip, scientists found that Otzi belonged to a particular so-called Y-chromosome haplogroup that is quite rare among today’s Europeans, suggesting his ancestors probably originated in the Middle East, and migrated to Europe as cattle-breeding became more widespread. Today, this genetic heritage is most likely to be found in the inhabitants of islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea, such as Sardinia and Corsica. [Source: Catharine Paddock PhD, Medical News Today, March 1, 2012]
Tia Ghose wrote in Live Science: Th initial results didn’t resolve an underlying question: Did most of the Neolithic people in Central Europe have genetic profiles more characteristic of Sardinia, or had Ötzi’s family recently emigrated from Southern Europe? “Maybe Ötzi was just a tourist, maybe his parents were Sardinian and he decided to move to the Alps,” Sikora said. That would have required Ötzi’s family to travel hundreds of miles, an unlikely prospect, Sikora said. “Five thousand years ago, it’s not really expected that our populations were so mobile,” Sikora told LiveScience. [Source: Tia Ghose, Live Science, November 9, 2012 ||*||]
“To answer that question, Sikora’s team sequenced Ötzi’s entire genome and compared it with those from hundreds of modern-day Europeans, as well as the genomes of a Stone Age hunter-gatherer found in Sweden, a farmer from Sweden, a 7,000-year-old hunter-gatherer iceman found in Iberia, and an Iron Age man found in Bulgaria. The team confirmed that, of modern people, Sardinians are Ötzi’s closest relatives. But among the prehistoric quartet, Ötzi most closely resembled the farmers found in Bulgaria and Sweden, while the Swedish and Iberian hunter-gatherers looked more like present-day Northern Europeans. ||*||
“The findings support the notion that people migrating from the Middle East all the way to Northern Europe brought agriculture with them and mixed with the native hunter-gatherers, enabling the population to explode, Sikora said. While the traces of these ancient migrations are largely lost in most of Europe, Sardinian islanders remained more isolated and therefore retain larger genetic traces of those first Neolithic farmers, Sikora said. ||*||
“The findings add to a growing body of evidence showing that farming played a major role in shaping the people of Europe, said Chris Gignoux, a geneticist at the University of California San Francisco, who was not involved in the study. I think it’s really intriguing,” Gignoux said. “The more that people are sequencing these ancient genomes from Europe, that we’re really starting to see the impact of farmers moving into Europe.”“||*||
Studies have shown that Otzi was probably was born and lived his whole life within 60 kilometers of the site near the Austrian-Italian border where he was found. The conclusion was reached by studying different elements found in his teeth, bones and intestines and comparing them with those found in soils and water found in different place. The isotopes of element like oxygen, strontium, lead and argon match those in a valley in Italy near where he was found.
Isotopes lodged in teeth enamel are good indicators of what an individual consumed as a child. Those found in bones are good indicators of food consumed in adulthood d while this in the intestines give insights into what a person consumed in his final days. Analysis of the isotopes found in Otzi seemed to indicate he spent his youth in a valley south of where he was found while those in his bones indicate he traveled both north and south of where he was found. Analysis by a team led by Wolfgang Muller of the University of London of lead, strontium and argon isotopes connected with soil type indicated that Otzi likely grew up in the Valle Isarco, an extensive north-south valley that includes the modern-day town of Bressanone. Isotope levels in his bones match those of two Alpine valleys further west — the Val Senales and Val Venosta. Mica found his intestines, likely accidently ingested with stone-ground grain also matches that found in the lower Val Venosta. Based on this evidence it seems likely that the Iceman embarked on his final journey from an area where the modern-day Senales and Adige Rivers meet near the town of Merano — or possibly the nearby Ulten, middle Eisack or lower Puster valleys between Bolzano and the Austrian border. The presence of pollen from a plant not found on the Austrian side of the mountains indicates that he spent his time on the Italian side of the mountains.
Iceman’s Tools and Possessions
the real Iceman mummy Among the items found with Iceman were his copper-blade ax, 14 arrows, a firestarter, a birch bark container, a piece of ibex meat, a grass cape, a dagger with an ash handle and flint blade and a sheath, a half-finished yew-wood long bow (longer than a man is tall), a quiver filled with mostly half-finished arrows, an arrow repair kit, medicine, and pieces of antler used to make arrows. He carried embers wrapped in maple leaves placed in a birch bark container, which shows that Neolithic people carried fire from place to place rather that started news fires from scratch. The presence of significant amounts of moss suggest he might have used it to wrap his food or even as toilet paper.
The copper ax was made from malachite — a copper carbonate that appears bluish-green on rock and cliff sides — that was scraped and flaked of the rock and smelted in a crucible over a campfire. The heat of the fire was increased by blowing oxygen through bellows. The nearly pure copper was then poured into a stone mold. This ax showed that people in Alpine possessed technology that was more sophisticated than previously thought. The fact that Otzi possessed such a fine weapon indicated that he was probably an elder in his village, and perhaps a leader.
Otzi also carried a bone needle and piece of fungus on a string that some believe were part of a prehistoric medicine kit. A lot was lost when Otzi was moved. His backpack for example was badly damaged and scientists are not sure how it was worn: over the shoulders or over the head. The quiver he carried has no strap to indicate how it was carried.
Otzi’s Copper Axe and His Links to Central Italy and Copper Making
The copper used to make Ötzi’s axe blade did not come from the Alpine region as had previously been supposed, but from ore mined in southern Tuscany. Ötzi was probably not involved in working the metal himself, as the high levels of arsenic and copper found in his hair had, until now, led us to assume. According to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology: “One surprising new fact has been unearthed which concerns the most extraordinary item amongst Ötzi’s equipment — the valuable copper axe. In contrast to what had previously been presumed, the copper used in the blade does not derive from the Alpine region (researchers had suggested East or North Tyrol as the most likely provenance) but from Central Italy. Professor Gilberto Artioli’s archaeometallurgy research group at the University of Padua has discovered that the metal had been obtained from ore mined in South Tuscany. In order to determine its origin, Italian scientists took a tiny sample from the blade and compared the proportion of lead isotope — a kind of “finger print” of the ore deposits which remains unchanged in any objects subsequently made from the ore — with the corresponding data from numerous mineral deposits in Europe and the entire Mediterranean region. [Source: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, September 23, 2016]
“The result pointed unequivocally to South Tuscany. “No one was prepared for this finding. We will commission further analyses in order to double-check these first results” stressed Angelika Fleckinger. If the original results are confirmed, this new evidence will give researchers some interesting food for thought. Was Ötzi as a trader travelling possibly as far as the area around today’s Florence? What was the nature of the trading and cultural links with the south in those days? Did the exchange of goods also involve movements of the population? That is to say, did people from the south venture into the Alpine region and vice versa? “This is a particularly exciting insight especially with respect to questions about population development,” explained Albert Zink.
“Another question long debated amongst the scientific community, is whether Ötzi was perhaps involved himself in the process of copper smelting. Scientists have advocated this thesis because raised arsenic and copper levels have been measured in the mummy’s hair, a fact which might possibly be explained, for example, by breathing in the smoke which is released when melting and pouring metal. Geochemist Wolfgang Müller of Royal Holloway, University of London, who had already used isotope analysis to establish Ötzi’s South Tyrol origins, has now turned to this question once more.
“Using highly developed methods of analysis such as laser mass spectrometry and speciation analysis, Müller’s team examined not just hairs but also samples from Ötzi’s nails, skin and organs for possible heavy metal contamination. His, so far still provisional, findings suggest that the hypothesis that Ötzi was involved in processing metal was premature. Müller did indeed find slightly raised arsenic values in the nail sample, but not in other tissue samples. Raised copper levels were only present at the extremities and this correlates with other change indicators, and thus it is doubtful if one can establish a heavy metal contamination for Ötzi’s actual life time: raised values might also be due to environmental influences over the 5,000 years since his death.”
Otzi, the Hunter
Otzi ax Otzi’s hand slings and the design of his long, lightweight arrows indicate that he specialized in hunting ibex and mountain goats that live high above the tree line. Arrows of his design would not work well in the forest where they can get tangled up in brush. The feathers of the arrows indicate that people in Otzi’s time understood that the aerodynamic principal of a rotating arrow could be shot more accurately.
Otzi’s ash-handled flint dagger was probably used to cut leather and slice game. X-ray, CT scans and chemical analysis showed the unfinished bow was made of a yew tree cut lower down the mountain and arrows were tied to their shafts with sinew. Evidence shows also that Otzi retied his arrows, butchered animals with his flint knife and worked to reposition his copper ax head in its handle.
Otzi’s curved spike, edge sharpeners for his stone tools, and quiver were made from red deer skin or antler. Red deer bones were often fond in Neolithic sites. They were are common source of meat. Some scholars have speculated that Europe’s first forests were purposely cleared to create ideal conditions for hunting large red deer.
The “Iceman” carried a backpack and wore three layers of clothes: woven grass cape, believed to be a prehistoric raincoat, fur leggings, and goatskin undergarments, straw insulated leather shoes, a coat of leather and goat fur, and a brown-bear -fur hat. All of Otzi’s clothes came from animal hides which suggest woven fabrics were not common. Almost everything that is known about Neolithic clothing has been gleaned from Otzi.
Otzi wore hay-stuffed shoes, a goat- and sheepskin coat, goatskin leggings, bear fur hat, grass matting and sheepskin loincloth. His shoelaces were made of cow-leather. His quiver was fashioned from the skin of a roe deer. Kristin Romey of National Geographic wrote: “Due to the decomposition of the leather and fur over thousands of years, however, researchers have been unable to conclusively pinpoint specific animal species for some of the components of Ötzi’s wardrobe. Understanding the choice of animals used in ancient clothing production—domestic or wild, local or imported—provides unique insights into the human past: Was the clothing worn purely for utility, or did it reflect the social status of the wearer? Were animal skins selected solely due to their availability, or were certain types of leathers and furs prized for specific qualities? [Source: Kristin Romey, National Geographic, August 18, 2016 =]
“Researchers were able to capture ancient DNA markers in nine samples of leather and fur from different articles of the Iceman’s clothing. According to their study published in Scientific Reports, Ötzi’s attire choices were selective and pragmatic. They confirmed that Ötzi’s leather loincloth and hide coat were “haphazardly” stitched from sheepskin, an identification already made in previous studies. However, the genetic analysis revealed that the sheep species sampled is closer to modern domestic European sheep than to their wild cousins, and that the articles were fashioned from the skins of at least four animals. =
“The analysis showed that part of Ötzi’s coat was also made from domesticated goat belonging to a mitochondrial haplogroup (a genetic population that shares a common female ancestor) that still roams the hills and valleys of central Europe today. The fact that the coat was made from at least several animals belonging to at least two different species leads the researchers to conclude that the Iceman’s coat was stitched together, and possibly repaired with, any hides that were handy at the time. =
“On the other hand, Ötzi’s leggings were also crafted from domesticated goat leather, and not a species of wolf, fox or dog as previously thought. The fact that a similar pair of 6,500-year-old leggings discovered in Switzerland were also fashioned from goat leather suggests that it may have been a material deliberately chosen for its specific qualities. Shoelaces fashioned from the predominant European genetic population of cattle round out the domesticated species identified in the tests on the clothing samples. =
“While Ötzi likely lived a life of farming and herding, he may have also hunted and trapped wild animals in his alpine environment. Genetic analysis shows that his quiver was made from wild roe deer, while his fur hat was fashioned from a genetic lineage of brown bear still seen in the region today.” =
The research was carried out by scientists from Ireland and Italy who published their results in the journal Scientific Reports.“The main question of study was to see what species these leathers were from and then the secondary question was are these species domestic varieties or not,” said Niall O’Sullivan, first author of the research from the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy. Ron Pinhasi, co-author of the research from University College, Dublin said the findings show that Ötzi was “pretty picky” when it came to his choice of skins. “To me it seems pretty sophisticated in terms of the capacities to use so many different materials from different animals,” he said. According to the Washington Post, Frank Maixner of the Institute for Mummies wrote an article on Otzi clothes published in Nature Reports. [Source: Nicola Davis, The Guardian August 18, 2016]
Iceman’s Shoes and Tattoos
tattoo Otzi’s shoes had fiber and bear-skin and deer-skin leather sections and were held together with a leather strap. The soles were made of bearskins tanned with bear brains and liver Still on his foot when was found was leather boot with an upper flap sewn onto a bottom sole, a sock-like net liner and laces made of grass rope. He placed insulating grass in the net liner and then put his foot into the liner.
In 2004, Petr Hlavlcek, a Czech professor of shoe technology at the Tomas Bata University in the Czech republic, made a pair of shoes like those worn by Otzi — with bearskin soles and grass insulation — and went hiking with them. Not only did he not develop any blisters he said the shoes were more comfortable and better for walking than modern hiking boots. Hlavlcek walked the 12 mile distance to the glacier where Otzi was found. He said when he stepped into a stream he felt no discomfort. He told Discover magazine, “The shoes were full of water but after three seconds it was very warm” and had a “comfortable feeling. This is because this layer of hay if full of air holes and air is the best warm insulation.”
The Iceman had bluish-black tattoos on four parts of his body — a set of parallel blue lines on his lower back, a cross behind his left knee, stripes on his right foot and ankle and lines on his left calf. CAT scans showed that the tattoos were located at places where Otzi had cartilage damage and probably had arthritis or joint page.
The tattoos were probably made by injecting ash beneath the skin with a bone or wooden needle. Their location closely corresponds with the traditional acupuncture points for the treatment of backaches and upset stomachs.
Otzi had brown hair and type-O blood. He was lactose intolerant (had problems digesting milk and dairy products), which was common among Neolithic agrarian societies. He had extensive tooth decay and worn teeth and his bones showed signs of a high degree a wear and tear. He also was the first-known carrier of Lyme disease, a bacterial infection spread by ticks, and had an ulcer-inducing bacteria and may have suffered from stomach aches. German mummy expert Albert Zink wrote in Science. But for all his parasites, worn ligaments and bad teeth, he was in “pretty good shape”.
Analysis of the “Iceman” with X-rays, CT scans and chemical analysis of bone, tissue and DNA samples has shown that he had very little body fat (indicating he may have been close to starving); he had four broken ribs; and had arthritis in his hip joints, knees, ankles and spine. There were signs of arteriosclerosis and a possible stroke.
whipworm egg evidence Radiologists are unable to determine whether the broken ribs occurred during his lifetime, were caused by the weight of the glacier which preserved him or were made during the recovery process after he was found but think they were probably the result of an injury that occurred in his lifetime. Dr. William A. Murphy, a radiologist from the University of Texas who studies thousands of X-Rays and CAT scan told the New York Times. “It’s my opinion that it would take significant force to do that, and I can imagine that force from the weight of ice.”
Ötzi’s lungs were as black as a smoker’s, probably the result of living in a shelter with an open hearth. Deposits on the shinbone that occurred when bone growth stops indicate that Ötzi survived periods of extreme, hunger, illness or metal poisoning when he was 9, 15 and 16 years old. CT scans showed evidence of whipworm eggs in his colon and a fungal infection in his lungs. There were large amounts of copper in Ötzi’s hair which may been made during the smelting of copper. Analysis of Otzi’s remaining fingernail indicated he was not healthy, and he suffered from three bouts of serious disease in the final six months of his life.
Otzi’s Health Problems
Otzi’s DNA profile, published in 2012, Michel Rose of Reuters wrote, revealed Otzi “was predisposed to arteriosclerosis and heart diseases, conditions thought to be more linked to modern risk factors such as being overweight, smoking or drinking. “We know he was a very active person. He was not the type of person who would sit around in a sedentary fashion. It also seems he ate in a healthy fashion,” Graefen said. “So it could be that the genetics count for more than we might have thought previously (for modern conditions such as cardiovascular diseases,” she added. [Source: Michel Rose, Reuters, March 2, 2012]
Despite his normal weight and active life-style, Otzi seems to have suffered from extensive vascular calcification. According to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology: “A new computer tomography (CT) scan of the man from the ice was undertaken by radiologists Paul Gostner and Patrizia Pernter in January 2013 in the Department of Radiology of Bozen-Bolzano Hospital. To do this they used a CT-scanner of the latest generation which, thanks to its large opening, allowed the doctors to run Ötzi rapidly through the machine from head to toe despite the way his arm is angled. In addition to the vascular calcification in the arteries of his stomach and legs which had already been known about, the superior image allowed doctors to spot three small areas of calcification near to the outflow tracts of the heart which had hitherto escaped their notice. This substantiates the earlier finding made by molecular biologists in EURAC that Ötzi had a strong genetic predisposition to cardiovascular diseases and that this was probably also the main reason for his general arteriosclerosis.
A few months later,Nikhil Swaminathan wrote in Archaeology: Otzi “may have had Lyme disease—his DNA carries sequences from the bacteria responsible for the illness, which is tricky to identify even today. “We think that the iceman must have had at least some early symptoms, such as fever and temporary weakness,” says Albert Zink, head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy of Bolzano in Italy. “In a later stage, Lyme disease can affect the joints and the nervous system, but we don’t have any proof of that for the iceman.” [Source: Nikhil Swaminathan, Archaeology, Volume 65 Number 4, July/August 2012]
Catharine Paddock wrote in Medical News Today: “The scientists found DNA traces of Borrelia burgdorferi, a type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease. “This is the oldest evidence for borreliosis (Lyme disease) and proof that this infection was already present 5,000 years ago,” said Carsten Pusch, who led the genetic investigations in Tübingen. The scientists believe the DNA also shows Oetzi was intolerant of lactose, so he would not have been able to digest milk or milk products. This supports the idea that despite the increasing use of dairying and agriculture, lactose intolerance would have still prevailed in Oetzi’s generation. The ability for adults to digest milk and milk products developed gradually over the thousand or so years after Oetzi’s lifetime, and went hand in hand with the domestication of animals.” [Source: Catharine Paddock PhD, Medical News Today, March 1, 2012]
The Iceman died on a fairly well-traveled route from the Schnals Valley in Italy across Tisenjock Pass to the high pastures on the Austrian side of the Alps. It is believed he was on his way to the fertile Venosta Valley in northern Italy, where he may have had a home. Excavations have uncovered numerous stones tools along the route.
Ötzi was likely a farmer or a shepherd on his way to or from the summer pastures nearby. Nobody is sure what he was doing up on the pass. Some speculate that his tattoos meant he was a shaman and that maybe he was up there performing some kind of ritual but most believe he was a shepherd gathering materials for new weapons. In addition to a deerskin quiver 12 unfinished arrows were found. Based on evidence that he hunted perhaps he was where he was to hunt ibex.
Judging from grain samples it was determined that the Iceman left a lowland valley in late summer or early autumn and the speculate the broken ribs may have meant that he was fleeing a violent confrontation. The fact that pollen of deciduous trees and pine trees was found on food in his intestines suggests he doubled back through a forest before climbed to the peak, as if try to elude pursuers.
Discovering the Iceman
Otzi was found in September 1991 near a 10,500-foot-high pass at the top in the Schnals Valley in Italy, 300 feet from the Austrian border. His head and shoulders had been exposed for around a week, then covered again by a few inches of snow, when he was discovered by a German couple, Helmut and Erika Simon, who were hiking in the area and had wandered off a path. Erika saw him first. She noticed a head and shoulders sticking out of the ice and first thought it was a discarded doll.
Finding the Iceman was an incredible stroke of luck. The snow and ice that had covered him for millennia and preserved him hadn’t melted away that long before he was discovered and few days after he was discovered a big snow storm hit the area again that would have covered him again. The shallow basin he was discovered in kept him frozen, preserved and in one piece. If he been in a glacier he would have pulverized into Iceman dust.
Also a stroke of luck was the way his corpse was embalmed in snow and ice soon after he died so that so much could be inferred the body. It seems his body was dried by wind and sun and quickly blanketed by snow and ice in a late spring or early summer snow storm and was situated in a high ravine in such a way that the Niederjoch Glacier flowed over him, preserving him without breaking him apart. Exceptionally warm weather in 1991 melted the ice and allowed him to be found.
Moving the Iceman
Otzi should have been slowly and carefully removed from the ice by archaeologists who would have diligently recorded every detail about his location, position and stuff found around him. That didn’t happen. Instead he was hacked out of the snow by well-meaning hikers, with ski poles and ice axes, who assumed he was a long-dead mountain climber. One of the “sticks” used to pry him loose turned out to be his bow. A policeman assisting with a jackhammer tore a hole into the Iceman’s left hip and damaged his thigh. The unfinished bow he carried in his backpack was broken into two pieces. His backpack was torn apart. By the time a forensic team arrived from Austria the site had been badly trampled upon.
And even then the debacle continued. When he was lifted out of the ice the remnants of his clothing were lost and some witnesses said they heard a cracking noise (later discovered to be the noise of an arm bone being broken). He was airlifted to the nearest village were he was shoved into a coffin for the car ride to Innsbruck.
Despite all this, when experts finally got a good look at him they were still amazed by how well preserved the body was. His brain, internal organs, and even one of his eyeballs were intact. Early reports that his penis was missing turned out to be unfounded. It was shriveled but there.
Fight Over the Iceman’s Body
Soon after the Iceman was taken to Austria it was discovered that he had actually been found on Italian soil and the Italians wanted him back. An investigation found that he lied on Italian soil 100 meters from the Austrian border. Later an agreement was worked out allowing the Austrians to keep him for three years and return him in 1998. In January 1998, the Austrians turned the Iceman over to Italian authorities and he was placed in an archaeology museum in Bolzano in northern Italy. He was transported packed in dry ice in a refrigerated truck, whose departure time was kept secret to avoid possible attacks from Austrian nationalists.
Otzi is now kept in a special vault on the second floor of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in the old Banca d’Italia building in Bolzano, Italy. He can be viewed through a window. The vault where he is kept is kept at a constant temperature of 20.3̊F in humidity between 95 and 98 percent.
The is window Otzi is viewed through is about 18 inches square. The room is barely illuminated. Otzi is naked, and laying on his back with his left arm positioned awkwardly across his neck. His his eye is open. Bob Cullen wrote in Smithsonian magazine: “The body looks like a skeleton wrapped tightly in hairless skin’skin the brown of braised turkey. It gleams with a glaze of ice that is left undefrosted to protect it. It’s mouth is frozen in an expression which displays a few worn, chipped teeth.
In his current state he is 1.6 metes (5 feet 3 inches) tall and weighs 13.78 kilograms (30.32 pounds). As of February 2003, his body had been scanned five times: the first time with conventional X-ray machines, then digital X-rays and three other times with computer tomography (CT scans). When he was taken to the hospital for CT scans he was packed in ice and given a police escort for the five minuet ambulance ride. The scans were done quickly as possible while he was packed in ice to prevent any thawing. In the Alps a stone obelisk marks the general area where he was found. The exact spot is marked by splotch of red paint on a boulder.
Researchers have inspected almost every aspect of Otzi’s remains, revealing everything from his medical history (Ötzi had Lyme disease and hardening of the arteries) to the origin of his ancestors (who likely came from the Middle East perhaps via Sardinia or Corsica).
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ötzi’s discovery on September 19, 1991, a three-day Congress was held from September 19-21, 2016 at the International Mummy Congress in Bozen-Bolzano. According to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology: “Since the man from the ice came on the scene on has not ceased to fascinate scientists from all over the world. No corpse has been more thoroughly investigated. “What concerns us most these days is to know who the man from the ice was, what role he played in society and what happened to him in the last days of his life. Sophisticated procedures, now available to scientists, are continually supplying us with new evidence,” said Angelika Fleckinger, Director of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology which helped to organise the Congress. [Source: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, September 23, 2016]
“In terms of his significance for science, Ötzi is not simply an isolated mummy discovery. He could be seen as a typical European from earlier times and is precious for this reason alone,” explained the anthropologist Albert Zink from EURAC Research, the scientific leader of the congress. “Ötzi is so well preserved as a glacier mummy and through this alone, he serves us researchers as a model for developing scientific methods which can then be used on other mummies,” said Zink.
Studying the Iceman
Stephen S. Hall wrote in National Geographic, “After Austrian authorities first recovered the mummy in 1991, scientists in Innsbruck cut a large gash across his lower torso as part of their initial investigation, along with other incisions in his back, at the top of the skull, and on his legs.
The most astonishing revelation came in 2001, when a local radiologist named Paul Gostner noticed a detail that had been overlooked in the images: an arrowhead buried in the Iceman’s left shoulder, indicating that he had been shot from behind. Later work by Gostner and his colleagues with more powerful CT imaging devices revealed that the arrow had pierced a major artery in the thoracic cavity, causing a hemorrhage that would have been almost immediately fatal. The oldest accidentally preserved human ever found was the victim of a brutally efficient murder.
Other scientists filled in biographical details. Analysis of chemical traces in his bones and teeth indicated that Ötzi, as he is also called, grew up northeast of Bolzano, possibly in the Isarco River Valley, and spent his adulthood in the Venosta Valley. Pollen found in his body placed his final hours in the springtime, and his last hike probably along a path up the Senales Valley toward an alpine pass just west of the Similaun Glacier. Close examination of his hand revealed a partially healed injury, suggestive of a defensive wound from an earlier fight. DNA analysis of food remnants found in his intestines — his stomach appeared to be empty — indicated that sometime before he met his demise, he had eaten red meat and some sort of wheat. Putting these facts together, scientists theorized that adversaries had an altercation with the Iceman in the valley south of the pass, chased him, and caught up with him on the mountain, where the body was discovered more than 5,000 years later.
Unfreezing the Iceman
Stephen S. Hall wrote in National Geographic, Radiologist Paul Gostner “took a closer look at the Iceman’s guts. Though he had retired, the radiologist kept studying the CT scans at home as a kind of hobby, and in 2009 he became convinced that scientists had mistaken the Iceman’s empty colon for his stomach, which had been pushed up under his rib cage and appeared to Gostner to be full. If he was right, it meant the Iceman had eaten a large, and presumably leisurely, meal minutes before his death — not the sort of thing someone being chased by armed enemies would likely do.” [Source: Stephen S. Hall, National Geographic, November 2011]
“Gostner came over and told us he thought the stomach was full,” Albert Zink, director of the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, told National Geographic. “And we thought, OK, then we have to go inside and sample the stomach.” After further thought, Zink and his colleagues drew up a more ambitious plan: a head-to-toe investigation involving seven separate teams of surgeons, pathologists, microbiologists, and technicians. Perhaps most remarkable, this choreographed intervention would be accomplished without making any new incisions in the Iceman’s body. Instead, the scientists would enter the body through the “Austrian windows” — their name for the overenthusiastic cuts made by the initial investigators. “This will happen once,” Zink said, “and then never again for many, many years.”
Stephen S. Hall wrote in National Geographic, “Shortly after 6 p.m. on a drizzling, dreary November day in 2010, two men dressed in green surgical scrubs opened the door of the Iceman’s chamber in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. They slid the frozen body onto a stainless steel gurney. One of the men was a young scientist named Marco Samadelli. Normally, it was his job to keep the famous Neolithic mummy frozen under the precise conditions that had preserved it for 5,300 years. On this day, however, Samadelli had raised the temperature in the museum’s tiny laboratory room to 18 degrees C (64 degrees F). [Source: Stephen S. Hall, National Geographic , November 2011]
“With Samadelli was a local pathologist with a trim mustache named Eduard Egarter Vigl, known informally as the Iceman’s “family doctor.” While Egarter Vigl poked and prodded the body with knowing, sometimes brusque familiarity, a handful of other scientists and doctors gathered around in the cramped space, preparing to do the unthinkable: defrost the Iceman. The next day, in a burst of hurried surgical interventions as urgent as any operation on a living person, they would perform the first full-scale autopsy on the thawed body, hoping to shed new light on the mystery of who the Iceman really was and how he had died such a violent death.
“Egarter Vigl and Samadelli carefully transferred the body to a custom-made box lined with sterilized aluminum foil. In its frozen state, the Iceman’s deep caramel skin had a dignified luster, reminiscent of a medieval figure painted in egg tempera. With the agonized reach of his rigid left arm and the crucifixate tilt of his crossed feet, the defrosting mummy struck a pose that wouldn’t look out of place in a 14th-century altarpiece. Within moments, beads of water, like anxious sweat, began to form on his body. One droplet trickled down his chin with the slow inevitability of a tear.”
Otzi’s arrow hole
“This is the brain,” announced neurosurgeon Andreas Schwarz, as he maneuvered a neurological endoscope into the top of the Iceman’s head. “Like the other scientists in the room,” Hall wrote, “Schwarz was wearing 3-D glasses, and as he inched the instrument deeper inside the skull, a blurry 3-D image appeared on a computer monitor. It was a little after 1 p.m., and by that point the Iceman had already undergone six hours of poking, probing, gouging, and sample gathering. The surgical teams had taken snippets of muscle and lung. They had bored a hole in his pelvis to collect bone tissue for DNA analysis. They had rummaged around his thorax, trying to get close to the arrowhead and the tissue around it. They had even plucked some of his pubic hair. His skin had lost its luster and had a dull, leathery look, like a chicken wing left in the freezer too long. [Source: Stephen S. Hall, National Geographic , November 2011]
Stephen S. Hall wrote in National Geographic, “Now they were peeking inside his brain to see if a mysterious shadow on a previous CT image might be an internal clot, or hematoma, at the rear of the skull, indicating a blow to the head. But the operation was not going smoothly. Schwarz’s endoscope kept bumping into ice crystals that blurred the camera lens. After an hour, the neurosurgery team finished up, not entirely sure whether they had obtained a viable sample.
The initial attempts to explore the stomach were also frustrating. Peter Malfertheiner, of the Otto-von-Guericke University of Magdeburg, tried to insinuate an endoscope down the Iceman’s throat into the stomach, but five millennia of atrophy and mummification blocked the way. Egarter Vigl stepped in with a less delicate approach. Using the large Austrian window at the lower end of the torso, he stuck a gloved hand into the Iceman’s gut. He pulled out two large chunks of undigested food, then switched to a kitchen spoon and scooped several more ounces from the Iceman’s very full stomach.
By the end of the day, the laboratory freezer brimmed with 149 biological samples — “enough for about 50 papers,” quipped one of the biologists. As soon as the autopsy concluded, Samadelli lowered the temperature in the laboratory below freezing. The next morning he and Egarter Vigl spruced up the body with a fine spray of sterilized water, which froze on contact. Then they slid the Iceman back into his high-tech igloo and closed the door.
Findings from the Iceman Autopsy
The autopsy had taken about nine hours; analysis of the material gleaned will take years. The first revelations were disclosed in June 2011, when Zink and his colleagues presented some of their initial findings at a scientific meeting. Thanks to the DNA in a tiny speck of pelvic bone culled during the autopsy, the Iceman has joined the company of renowned biologists James D. Watson and J. Craig Venter as one of a handful of humans whose genomes have been sequenced in exquisite detail. [Source: Stephen S. Hall, National Geographic , November 2011]
The genetic results add both information and intrigue. From his genes, we now know that the Iceman had brown hair and brown eyes and that he was probably lactose intolerant and thus could not digest milk’somewhat ironic, given theories that he was a shepherd. Not surprisingly, he is more related to people living in southern Europe today than to those in North Africa or the Middle East, with close connections to geographically isolated modern populations in Sardinia, Sicily, and the Iberian Peninsula. The DNA analysis also revealed several genetic variants that placed the Iceman at high risk for hardening of the arteries. (“If he hadn’t been shot,” Zink remarked, “he probably would have died of a heart attack or stroke in ten years.”) Perhaps most surprising, researchers found the genetic footprint of bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi in his DNA — making the Iceman the earliest known human infected by the bug that causes Lyme disease.
The autopsy results have also rewritten the story of the Iceman’s final moments. The neuroscientists determined that blood had indeed accumulated at the back of the Iceman’s brain, suggesting some sort of trauma — either from falling on his face from the force of the arrow, Zink speculated, or perhaps from a coup de grâce administered by his assailant. DNA analysis of the final meal is ongoing, but one thing is already clear: It was greasy. Initial tests indicate the presence of fatty, baconlike meat of a kind of wild goat called an alpine ibex. “He really must have had a heavy meal at the end,” Zink said — a fact that undermines the notion that he was fleeing in fear. Instead, it appears he was resting in a spot protected from the wind, tranquilly digesting his meal, unaware of the danger he was in.
Ötzi’s Stomach Bacteria Offers Insights on Human Migration
Bacteria found Ötzi’s stomach has shed light on human migration patterns. AFP reported: “When scientists tested the contents of his stomach, they found a bacterium called Helicobacter pylori, an age-old pathogen that has evolved into different strains according to the region of the world in which it is found. “Surprisingly, a strain of bacterium in his gut shares ancestry with an Asian strain,” said the study in the US journal Science. “In contrast to the fact that most modern Europeans harbor a strain ancestral to north African strains.” [Source: Agence France-Presse, January 8, 2016 ]
“If the stomach contents of the Iceman is a good reflection of Europeans 5,300 years ago, the analysis suggests that African migration had not yet resulted in intermingling with the Asian strain of the bacterium. “This one genome has put things into wonderful perspective for us,” said Yoshan Moodley, a researcher at the University of Venda in South Africa. “We can say now that the waves of migration that brought these African Helicobacter pylori into Europe had not occurred, or at least not occurred in earnest, by the time the Iceman was around.” About half the people on the planet have the bacterium in their stomachs. It can cause ulcers or gastrointestinal distress and is typically spread among children when they play in dirt.”
DNA Study of Otzi
In 2012, the first complete genome-sequencing of “Otzi” was revealed and it was done so in such that anyone could have access to the data for their own research.Michel Rose of Reuters wrote: “For the first time since the Copper-age individual was unearthed, his complete genetic profile has been reconstituted, revealing a very modern predisposition for cardiovascular diseases, lactose intolerance, and brown eyes that betray near-Eastern origins. But the full-genome sequencing also opens far more possibilities for researchers around the globe than the 2008 sequencing of his mitochondrial DNA — which is passed down through the mother’s line. [Source: Michel Rose, Reuters, March 2, 2012]
“This is more information than we could probably study in a lifetime,”Angela Graefen, a human genetics researcher at the Eurac Institute for the Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, told Reuter. “That’s why we have made the data public on a special browser so that a specialist in any field can look this up.” “There are millions of genes out there which have yet to be identified. In the future, when we know what a particular gene is for, we can check what it was like 5,000 years ago,” she said. Graefen was one of the principal writers of the study published in the Nature Communications journal.
“Since Otzi’s mummified body was found 20 years ago, speculation about his lifestyle, how he died and even his sexuality have flourished in German, Austrian and Italian newspapers. One sticky rumor was that semen had been found in his anal canal, prompting headlines about his supposed homosexuality. But Graefen set the record straight. “This comes from the fact that seeds have been found in his intestine. The words for plant seeds and semen are actually the same in German,” she laughed. “People still to this day think this urban legend is true. But this is nothing more than a translation fault,” she added.
Otzi’s Blood: the World’s Oldest
After some red blood cells were found around, it was determined that Otzi’s blood is the world’s oldest. The BBC reported: “Researchers studying Oetzi 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. Now a study in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface shows that Oetzi’s remarkable preservation extends even to the blood he shed shortly before dying. The find represents by far the oldest red blood cells ever observed. [Source: BBC, 2 May 2012]
stone disks found on Otzi An earlier study by Prof Albert Zink and his colleagues at the Eurac Institute for Mummies, published in the Lancet, showed that a wound on Oetzi’s hand contained haemoglobin, a protein found in blood – but it had long been presumed that red blood cells’ delicate nature would have precluded their preservation. Prof Albert Zink and his colleagues collaborated with researchers at the Center for Smart Interfaces at the University of Darmstadt in Germany to apply what is known as atomic force microscopy to thin slices of tissue taken from an area surrounding the arrow wound.
“The technique works using a tiny metal tip with a point just a few atoms across, dragged along the surface of a sample. The tip’s movement is tracked, and results in a 3-D map at extraordinary resolution. The team found that the sample from Oetzi contained structures with a tell-tale “doughnut” shape, just as red blood cells have. To ensure the structures were preserved cells and not contamination of some kind, they confirmed the find using a laser-based technique called Raman spectroscopy – those results also indicated the presence of haemoglobin and the clot-associated protein fibrin. That, Prof Zink explained, seems to solve one of the elements of the murder mystery. “Because fibrin is present in fresh wounds and then degrades, the theory that Oetzi died some days after he had been injured by the arrow, as had once been mooted, can no longer be upheld,” he said.
Image Sources: Otzi Museum
Text Sources: National Geographic, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Nature, Scientific American. Live Science, Discover magazine, Discovery News, The Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, BBC, The Guardian, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides and various books and other publications.
Last updated September 2018
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Though he lived 5,000 years ago, Otzi the Iceman was not a strict adherent to the Paleo diet
Scientists sample the contents of Otzi the Iceman’s stomach in 2010 in Bolzano, Italy. A new study reports that Otzi’s last meal was likely an ibex, and it was high in fat.
If you were thinking that the ancient Alpine traveler known as Otzi — and often known simply as Iceman — scraped by on a diet of foraged grasses and berries, you’d be very wrong.
A comprehensive new study of his stomach contents reveals that Otzi, who perished roughly 5,300 years ago on a mountain in the Eastern Alps of Italy, died with a belly full of fatty meat, some whole seeds from the einkorn wheat plant, and maybe a bit of goat’s milk or cheese — all eaten just a couple of hours before he died.
Judging from the remnants of plant spores found in his gut, the Iceman may have set off from home with a mobile meal of smoked or dried meat wrapped in the large, coarse leaves of a bracken fern.
It was not a bad picnic for a peripatetic member of a primitive society of hunter-gatherer-farmers. There were traces of herbs, perhaps used to flavor the meat or a bread made from grains we would now call “ancient.” The meat came from an ibex — a wild goat species also known as the steinbock — and red deer, both plentiful in the area.
So much for some researchers’ conviction, based of an early analysis of his hair, that Otzi was a vegetarian.
Close to half of what remained in his stomach was fat from the meats he consumed. That fat would have given his last meal the luxurious mouthfeel of bacon.
The muscle-and-heart meat would have delivered the satiating properties of protein. It was fuel well-suited to the rigors of stalking, hunting and possibly shepherding animals in the cold, high Alps.
In time, this fatty, carnivorous diet would probably have clogged Otzi’s arteries, and evidence that this process was already underway has come from earlier research. But since Iceman was unlikely to survive into anything resembling modern-day old age, that would probably not have been the death of him. (He is estimated to have been roughly 45 when he died and had probably outlived most of his contemporaries.)
As food-packaging goes, bracken fern is a more questionable choice: It can cause bleeding and anemia when ingested.
But what killed Otzi in the end appears to have been an arrow to the back. And what happened at some point following his death — either a deliberate burial or a final accidental fall into a glacial ravine — caused his remains to be frozen and mummified until their discovery by hikers in 1991.
Dr. Gregory S. Thomas, a cardiologist with MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute in Long Beach who has studied ancient specimens to discern the roots of heart disease, calls Otzi “the best preserved ancient mummy ever discovered.” The new findings, reported Thursday in the journal Current Biology, will inspire scientists “to look into the last meals of mummies from other ancient cultures,” he said.
Thomas, who was not involved in the research, added that the study will help answer age-old questions of universal interest: What is an ideal diet, and how does what we eat influence our health, energy, and ability to survive in the spaces and times we inhabit?
Preserved in ice for millenniums and thawed out only for the occasional well-planned study, Otzi has given the modern world its best-ever chance to explore the everyday realities of life during the Chalcolithic era. Stretching from roughly 3500 to 2300 BE, that tumultuous period marked Southern Europe’s transition from primitive farming with stone tools to civilizations that forged metals, expanded trade and ushered in complex modern societies.
Iceman’s mummified remains have been intensively studied, and earlier surveys had already yielded some clues about his diet. But those analyses had focused on the contents of Iceman’s lower intestines, the largely digested remains of food eaten at least eight hours earlier, including deer meat, grains and fruit.
Those studies also showed that Iceman was infected with an intestinal parasite called whipworm, and that he was lactose intolerant. And they helped trace a turning point in humankind’s dental health: the introduction of grain-derived carbohydrates, which probably had deposited cavity-causing sugars on Iceman’s teeth.
The new analysis was made possible by the discovery of Iceman’s stomach, which had inexplicably migrated upward during the mummification process.
Samples taken from Otzi’s stomach (left) and gastrointestinal tract (center and right) were rehydrated in phosphate buffer to be analyzed.
Researchers from the Institute for Mummy Studies in Bolzano, Italy, where Iceman’s remains are stored, spotted the elusive stomach when they were reviewing CT scans in 2009. That prompted an intensive analysis of its contents. The team, led by Frank Maixner and Albert Zink, employed methods ranging from microscopic observation to genomic analysis.
Otzi’s final meal, the authors concluded, was “a well-balanced mix of carbohydrates, proteins and fats perfectly adjusted to the energetic requirements of his high altitude trekking.”
The tools brought to bear in the new study gave Maixner and Zink the ability “to examine the DNA, protein, carbohydrate and fat down to the atomic level,” Thomas said. “In the past, we could peer into a microscope and look at the meat of an ancient meal. But we could not examine the DNA, for example, to determine which animal it was, and which part of the animal.”
The findings touched off a new round of excited chatter among those who study ancient human cultures to discern the origins of heart disease.
“He would need the fat as an energy source, and I am sure he would have burned it off,” said Dr. Anthony Heagerty, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Manchester in England. Analyses of Otzi’s bones suggest that his lifestyle was far from sedentary and included long walks over hilly terrain.
“It is interesting that scans of the Iceman have shown major calcification in arteries and the aorta indicating an advanced state of atherosclerotic disease,” Heagerty said. In the end, he died violently, but “he too was in danger of heart attack,” Heagerty speculated.
Thomas is not so sure.
The meats found in Iceman’s belly — the heart and muscle meat of ibex and red deer — “were both wild and lean,” he said. And recent studies, including research on the cardiovascular health of the Tsimane people of lowland Bolivia, suggest that when it comes to heart disease, it may be the fat content of meat, more than the quantity consumed, that matters.
While the farmer-forager Tsimane eat about the same percentage of protein as in the typical American diet, the fat content of the meats they eat is about half of that found in farm-fed animals in the United States, Thomas said.
Finally, even at the then-advanced age of roughly 45, Otzi appeared to be “a lifetime athlete” for whom 10,000 steps a day “would likely be almost a warm-up,” he said.
“A subsistence hunter, his chief task would be finding food for himself, and if he had a family, for them as well,” Thomas noted. His daily exertions “would also be protective for his heart and overall health.”