Ötzi the Iceman is the oldest naturally preserved human body ever found. Because of Ötzi, we can touch and almost see into the very distant past. We can imagine the lives led by our human ancestors. The discovery and study of Ötzi enables us to look back through time and glimpse an ancient world.
Place & Circumstances of discovery
Ötzi the Iceman is believed to be the oldest naturally preserved human body ever found in the continent of Europe. Ötzi the Iceman was discovered high in the freezing mountain waters of a glacier at an altitude of 3,210 m above sea level high in the mountains of the Ötztal Alps; near Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy, in the September of 1991. Ötzi the Iceman was found by two German hikers, Helmut and Erika Simon; who initially believed that Ötzi was a lost mountaineer or a murder victim. He was nicknamed “Ötzi” for the mountains where he was discovered in. What made him extremely remarkable was that he was found with a large collection of objects from everyday life. Ötzi is now kept at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Northern Italy.
Dating of the body
Ötzi the Iceman's body was extraordinarily intact. So were his bow and arrows, dagger, axe and other tools, as well as his clothing which consisted of; a hide coat, grass cloak, leggings, loin cloth and shoes. These items found with the Iceman tell us a good deal of information about the time in which he lived; his life and the life of his people, approximately 5,000 years ago, called the Copper Age. Although it seems impossible that a corpse could be preserved for more than 5,000 years without any prominent decomposition, Ötzi the Iceman's body proved otherwise. This is proven by using a scientific test called Carbon 14 dating. Through this means of testing scientists can tell the age of almost anything that ever lived; dead animals, dead people, plants, and even cloth, which comes from living matter. The Carbon 14 dating test on Ötzi’s body showed that he must be approximately 5,300 years old.
Preservation of the body
Snow, ice, and cold temperatures can keep bodies frozen in time. Bacteria cannot survive in extreme cold; hence without bacteria to eat away the flesh, a dead body can become a natural mummy. In the case of Ötzi the Iceman, the body had been frozen and preserved in the freezing ice of a glacier for what is professionally estimated to have been more than 5,000 years. The body has been so well preserved that even the eyeballs remained intact.
Ötzi the Iceman is now kept in a refrigeration chamber, lying on a precision scale and conserved at a temperature of -6º C and 98% air humidity. In this the mummy is protected from any deterioration, and continues to be preserved.
Possible causes of death
There have been various theories and much speculation in regards to the cause of Ötzi the Iceman’s death. However after the finding of an arrowhead in Ötzi's shoulder, it is possible that Ötzi was in some sort of a struggle or fight prior to his death. Andrew Winter, President of Bristol University's Archaeological Society, said:
‘ …years of examination and x-rays had not come up with an answer until, in June last year, an Italian radiologist at the local hospital saw what everyone else had missed - there was a flint arrow head embedded in Ötzi's shoulder…’
In addition to this, some cuts on his hands, wrist, and ribcage are evident. Furthermore, DNA analyses claim that traces of blood from four other people have been found on his clothes and weapons. These finds may indicate that he was involved in some violence, and was perhaps killed by enemies.
On the other hand, if he was indeed killed by an enemy why wouldn’t they have taken the equipment that was found at the site of his death? Surely they would have been valuable? Another theory is that he was buried in a snow storm and died of cold and hunger. Furthermore, with the researchers’...