In a remote place high in the European Alps 3000 years BC a man we will later know as “Otzi” walks the deserted land but is he alone? On this day his life will end but he will remain on the mountain untouched for over 5000 years.
In September 1991 two hikers off trail made a tragic discovery, the head and shoulders of a man frozen in the ice. At first, they thought it was the body of a hiker recently lost but the body showed almost no sign of decomposition, the skin was freeze dried and the hands, feet and eyeballs were still in tact. The mountain air and ice had turned the body into a mummy. Some interesting items were found with the body, hand made rope and a knife with a flint blade making it possible that he was not a recent hiker but a man who was thousands of years old causing a world-wide uproar. The press name him The Iceman or “Otzi” because he was found in the Oztal mountains. It was confirmed that Otzi died 5300 years ago and his remains are the oldest intact human remains ever found. Otzi was found 100 yards from the border between Austria and Italy and now rests in Bolzano, Italy 30 miles where he died on display in a multi million-dollar lab carefully frozen in a special room while scientists try to answer some many questions about him and his life.
Bodies lost in the alps get buried in the ice and lost forever and by some miracle Otzi fell in the exact right spot where the wind and sun dried his body out, rocks formed a small shelter and filled in with snow and ice stopping Otzi from being swept away and gone forever. Otzi made a journey from 1000 feet to almost 11,000 feet, was he lost in a storm or something else? Otzi’s body defrosted to give scientists 9 hours to perform investigations before he had to be re-frozen. The risks of defrosting are bacteria, germs and living organisms in the body that could be re-activated. Scientist learned Otiz was 5’2 inches tall, in good shape, early forties, a hunter or maybe a shepherd and had over 50 tattoos over unknown meaning.
The question remains, how did the Iceman die? One theory is he froze to death in an ice storm so they continued to look for clues and found nothing. 10 years after Otzi was discovered new eyes studied the images and found a clue that would destroy that theory, an arrowhead stuck in his back! The arrowhead penetrated an artery causing Otzi to bleed to death. The arrowhead was never removed from his back. Otiz is considered a cultural treasure and so a full autopsy to allow scientist to explore the body Is not allowed. Pollen found in Otzi’s intestines make it clear he went up the mountain, came back down and then went up again where he was killed. The large gash across his right hand could be a sign he was being chased days before his death and the expensive axe left behind is puzzling because it was worth a lot of money but maybe the killers didn’t want to be identified. Signs of fracture around Otzis eyes and blunt forced trauma was confirmed in his skull meaning he suffered a direct blow to the head inflicted by himself or someone else. The one organ never found was Otzi’s stomach but in 2009 the same radiologist Dr. Gardner who discovered the arrowhead also discovered the iceman’s stomach. For 50 centuries he was pressed under ice casing him to become flat and shifting his stomach to where it didn’t belong. Contents of the stomach were einkorn grain, fats and meats weighing almost 3 pounds and suggesting he ate within two hours of his death. In the same day 149 biological samples were taken from the body and will be studied for many years to come. The most important samples are the ones that may contain the DNA of the Iceman. After following a long process of cutting down pieces of Otzis bones and putting them into a clean container to be broken down into cells, adding different chemicals the DNA was able to be extracted and after a short while they have a sample of Otzi’s DNA for reconstruction. 97% of true Otzi DNA was reconstructed but the other 3% that did not belong puzzled scientists but interesting enough it was discovered that it contained some bacteria traced back to Lyme disease that is the same in humans today. Otzi had brown eyes and was of Sardinian decent, it was also discovered he was lactose intolerant.
Otzi is from the end of the stone age and his gear was so perfectly reserved that it gave the scientist a lot of insight to the culture of his time. The iceman was still wearing one of his shoes when he was found made of grass, skin and cord, this suggested he was planning to cross the glaciers as they didn’t often wear shoes day to day. Among the items found was a wooden frame backpack, a leather pouch and chunks of tree fungus said to have healing powers acted as a First aid kit. This culture knew every use of plant and stone around them. Wildlife and enemy settlement clashes were always a threat to man so Otiz carried weapons of knives and bow and arrows to protect himself and they were recovered too. The arrow heads were made of flint and glued on to the wooden bow with sap from a birch tree. The most interesting weapon found was the axe made of copper because it changes what we thought about this time period. The skill needed to make the axe is that of a mind in todays world that can make a computer.
In conclusion, very few things were learned to make sense of how Otzi died but if we review all the evidence, missing arrow bleeding from his brain, valuable axe left behind and a full stomach it could make snese he was killed by someone he knew and didn’t see it coming. The Iceman will continue to teach us many things rewriting history with his age and equipment setting new records and helping us to understand our ancestry. These factors make Otzi the Iceman a significant discovery.