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Meet Otzi, The Ice Man

Ötzi  also called Ötzi the Iceman, the Similaun Man, the Man from Hauslabjoch, Homo tyrolensis, and the Hauslabjoch mummy) is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived around 3,300 BCE, more precisely between 3359 and 3105 BCE. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, hence the nickname “Ötzi”, near the Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. He is Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic Europeans.

Discovery

On 19 September 1991, Ötzi was found by two German tourists from Nuremberg, Helmut and Erika Simon, at 3,210 metres (10,530 ft) on the east ridge of the Fineilspitze in the Ötztal Alps on the Austrian–Italian border, while walking off the path between the mountain passes Hauslabjoch and Tisenjoch. They believed that the body was of a recently deceased mountaineer.The next day, a mountain gendarme and the keeper of the nearby Similaunhütte first attempted to remove the body, which was frozen in ice below the torso, using a pneumatic drill and ice-axes, but had to give up due to bad weather.

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oetzi_discovery
Otzi,s body when he was discovered

The next day, eight groups visited the site, amongst whom happened to be the famous mountaineers Hans Kammerlander and Reinhold Messner. The body was semi-officially extracted on 22 September and officially salvaged the following day. It was transported to the University of Innsbruck, where it was recognized to be primeval the same day.

At the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye (1919), the border between North and South Tyrol was defined as the watershed of the rivers Inn and Etsch. However, near Tisenjoch the (now withdrawn) glacier complicated establishing the watershed at the time and the border was established too far north. Therefore, although Ötzi’s find site drains to the Austrian side, surveys in October 1991 showed that the body had been located 92.56 metres (101 yd) inside Italian territory. The province of South Tyrol therefore claimed property rights, but agreed to let Innsbruck University finish its scientific examinations. Since 1998, it has been on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol.The corpse has been extensively examined, measured, X-rayed, and dated. Tissues and intestinal contents have been examined microscopically, as have the items found with the body.

Otzi’s Body

By current estimates, at the time of his death Ötzi was approximately 1.65 metres (5 ft 5 in) tall, weighed about 50 kilograms (110 lb; 7.9 st) and was about 45 years of age. When his body was found, it weighed 13.750 kg (30.25 lb). Because the body was covered in ice shortly after his death, it had only partially deteriorated. Analysis of pollen, dust grains and the composition of his tooth enamel indicates that he spent his childhood near the present village of Feldthurns, north of Bolzano, but later went to live in valleys about 50 kilometres farther north. 

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The Iceman from the chest up lying on stainless steel table, with his left arm across his body just between the top of his right shoulder and under his chin
Ötzi the Iceman, now housed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy

Analysis of Ötzi’s intestinal contents showed two meals (the last one consumed about eight hours before his death), one of chamois meat, the other of red deer and herb bread. Both were eaten with grain as well as roots and fruits. The grain from both meals was a highly processed wheat bran, quite possibly eaten in the form of bread. In the proximity of the body, and thus possibly originating from the Iceman’s provisions, chaff and grains of einkorn and barley, and seeds of flax and poppy were discovered, as well as kernels of sloes (small plumlike fruits of the blackthorn tree) and various seeds of berries growing in the wild. Hair analysis was used to examine his diet from several months before.

Pollen in the first meal showed that it had been consumed in a mid-altitude conifer forest, and other pollens indicated the presence of wheat andlegumes, which may have been domesticated crops. Pollen grains of hop-hornbeam were also discovered. The pollen was very well preserved, with the cells inside remaining intact, indicating that it had been fresh (a few hours old) at the time of Ötzi’s death, which places the event in the spring. Einkorn wheat is harvested in the late summer, and sloes in the autumn; these must have been stored from the previous year.

Analysis of the contents revealed the partly digested remains of ibex meat, confirmed by DNA analysis, suggesting he had a meal less than two hours before his death. Wheat grains were also found. Ötzi’s lifestyle included long walks over hilly terrain. This degree of mobility is not characteristic of other Copper Age Europeans. Ruff proposes that this may indicate that Ötzi was a high-altitude shepherd.

Using modern 3-D technology, a facial reconstruction has been created for the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. It shows Ötzi looking old for his 45 years, with deep-set brown eyes, a beard, a furrowed face, and sunken cheeks. He is depicted looking tired and ungroomed.

Clothes and shoes

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Line drawing of a right shoe
An artist’s impression of Ötzi’s right shoe

Ötzi’s clothes were sophisticated. He wore a cloak made of woven grass and a coat, a belt, a pair of leggings, a loincloth and shoes, all made of leather of different skins. He also wore a bearskin cap with a leather chin strap. The shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for the top panels, and a netting made of tree bark. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like modern socks. The coat, belt, leggings and loincloth were constructed of vertical strips of leather sewn together with sinew. His belt had a pouch sewn to it that contained a cache of useful items: a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl and a dried fungus.

The shoes have since been reproduced by a Czech academic, who said that “because the shoes are actually quite complex, I’m convinced that even 5,300 years ago, people had the equivalent of a cobbler who made shoes for other people”. However, a more recent hypothesis by British archaeologist, Jacqui Wood says that Ötzi’s “shoes” were actually the upper part of snowshoes.

Tools and equipment

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A modern reconstructed replica of Ötzi’s copper axe

Other items found with the Iceman were a copper axe with a yew handle, a flint-bladed knife with an ash handle and a quiver of 14 arrows with viburnum and dogwood shafts. Two of the arrows, which were broken, were tipped with flint and had fletching (stabilizing fins), while the other 12 were unfinished and untipped. The arrows were found in a quiver with what is presumed to be a bow string, an unidentified tool, and an antler tool which might have been used for sharpening arrow points. There was also an unfinished yew longbow that was 1.82 metres long.

In addition, among Ötzi’s possessions were berries, two birch bark baskets, and two species of polypore mushrooms with leather strings through them. One of these, the birch fungus, is known to have antibacterial properties, and was probably used for medicinal 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.

Ötzi’s copper axe was of particular interest. The axe’s haft is 60 centimetres (24 in) long and made from carefully worked yew with a right-angled crook at the shoulder, leading to the blade. The 9.5 centimetres (3.7 in) long axe head is made of almost pure copper, produced by a combination of casting, cold forging, polishing, and sharpening. It was let into the forked end of the crook and fixed there using birch-tar and tight leather lashing. The blade part of the head extends out of the lashing and shows clear signs of having been used to chop and cut. At the time, such an axe would have been a valuable possession, important both as a tool and as a status symbol for the bearer.

Ötzi had an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder when he died, and a matching small tear on his coat. The discovery of the arrowhead prompted researchers to theorize Ötzi died of blood loss from the wound, which would probably have been fatal even if modern medical techniques had been available. Further research found that the arrow’s shaft had been removed before death, and close examination of the body found bruises and cuts to the hands, wrists and chest and cerebral trauma indicative of a blow to the head. One of the cuts was to the base of his thumb that reached down to the bone but had no time to heal before his death. Currently, it is believed that the cause of death was a blow to the head, however researchers are unsure of what inflicted the fatal injury. Unpublished and thus unconfirmed DNA analyses claim they 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.Interpretations of these findings were that Ötzi killed two people with the same arrow, and was able to retrieve it on both occasions, and the blood on his coat was from a wounded comrade he may have carried over his back. Ötzi’s unnatural posture in death (frozen body, face down, left arm bent across the chest) suggests that the theory of a solitary death from blood loss, hunger, cold and weakness is untenable. Rather, before death occurred and rigor mortis set in, the Iceman was turned on to his stomach in the effort to remove the arrow shaft. Researchers concluded that Ötzi did not die immediately from his shoulder wound. They detected dried blood cells and possibly fibrin in a state of degradation from maturity, suggesting an established blood clot of more than a few days’ age.

The DNA evidence suggests that he was assisted by companions who were also wounded; pollen and food analysis suggests that he was out of his home territory. The copper axe could not have been made by him alone. It would have required a group tribal effort to mine, smelt and cast the copper axe head. This may indicate that Ötzi was part of an armed raiding party involved in a skirmish, perhaps with a neighboring tribe, and this skirmish had gone badly.

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Otzi the Iceman
Otzi the Iceman

His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy.

Source:Wikipedia

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