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 ]
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 was a man that stood five feet two. He had medium length wavy dark 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.
Some have called the discovery of 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.
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.”
Websites and Resources on Prehistory: Human Prehistory users.hol.gr/~dilos/prehis.htm ; Wikipedia article on Prehistory Wikipedia ; Early Humans elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; Prehistoric Art witcombe.sbc.edu/ARTHprehistoric ; National Geographic Atlas of the Human Journey genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/atlas ; Early Modern Man: Evolution of Modern Humans anthro.palomar.edu ; Virtual Ice Age creswell-crags.org.uk/Explore/virtually-the-ice-age ; Stone Age Tools aerobiologicalengineering.com
Websites and Resources of Early Agriculture and Domesticated Animals: Origins of Agriculture comp-archaeology.org/AgricultureOrigins ; Britannica britannica.com/ ; Wikipedia article History of Agriculture said that ; 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 ; Iceman Photscan iceman.eurac.edu/ ; Otzi Official Site iceman.it
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 iron-tipped 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, 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.
Iceman's Clothes and Tattoos
tattoo 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’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.
whipworm egg evidence 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.
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.
Analysis of Otzi’s stomach determined his last meal, eaten 12 hours before his death, was red deer meat and bread made from einkorn (a primitive variety of wheat) and he had some plums fairly recently. Ibex bones were found near his body. DNA studies by molecular anthropologists of his intestines determined that his second to last meal was ibex meat, cereals (grass grains) and various other plants. Barley was found on his clothes. The presence of einkorn and barley suggests his people may have practiced rudimentary agriculture.
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.
arrow hole In 2001, after ten years of meticulously examining him, scientists finally came up with a likely scenario of how Otzi died. That year doctors in Italy found a flint arrowhead in his left shoulder and a wound that had not healed and deduced that an arrow entered his back, passed near his lung and severed an artery, causing him to die from loss of blood. Scientists, included some that had checked the body over a hundred times, were shocked they hadn’t seen the arrow head before.
Further examination revealed that Otzi had deep wounds on his hands that could have been caused in a knife fight. The entry point of the arrow is below the arrow head which suggests he shot from below. A CAT scan performed at a hospital in Bolzano revealed that flint-head arrow most likely pierced a bone before making made a centimeter-wide gash in his subclavian artery, which delivers blood from the heart the left arm.
It has been determined that Otzi died in late spring or early summer based in the presence of pollen from the hop hornbeam, an Alpine tree with yellow flowers that blooms that time of year. Initially it was thought that he was trapped in a freak storm or blizzard that blew through the pass where he was found, and he died of exposure. His stomach was empty but there was a lot of material in his large intestine, which means he had probably eaten eight hour before he died. Some speculated he died of malnutrition or possibly fell in crevasse, or maybe was even offered as a human sacrifice.
Iceman's Final Struggle
dagger Days before he died the Iceman suffered cuts to his right hand and wrist consistent with wound made by a hatchets. Some scientists think Otzi was being pursued by people that attacked him and say he escaped his attackers and died alone. Otherwise they argue he would have been robbed of his possessions.
Using ballistics evidence and reasoning like that used by CSI investigators, other scientists believe that Otzi was shot with an arrow and his attackers pulled the arrow shaft from his body and left him to bleed. Based on the markings found on Otzi’s body and studies of prehistoric arrows and hunting, German archaeologist Egerter Vogl said, “I believe—in fact, I am convinced—that the person who shot the Iceman with the arrow is same person who pulled it out.” The positioning of the wound indicates Otzi was shot from behind and below. The location behind the shoulder blade is the same place where prehistoric hunters aimed to bring down game in a single shot. Vogl theorized the attacker took the shaft to cover his crime and didn’t take any of the Iceman’s possession because he didn’t want to be linked to the murder.
Findings announced in 2003 by Dr. Tom Loy of Queensland University in Australia indicated that Otzi may have stood his ground and fought off several foes after being shot and was then helped by a friend. According to Loy, DNA analysis of blood found in Otzi’s arrows, knife and coat found DNA from four separate people, including the Iceman himself. The blood of one individual was found on the back of his cloak, another was found on his knife and more DNA was found on the arrowheads. Loy has speculated that maybe Otzi shot someone and pulled out the arrow. The bloodstains someone else on his leather jacket suggest he might have been supported by a wounded companion. Bruises on Otzi’s torso and the cuts on his hand suggest he was in nasty fight. Many academics have serious doubts about the data. Loy’s research has only been released to the media and not reported in scientific literature.
Theories About Why the Iceman Died
Some have speculated that maybe Otzi had a run in with rival hunters over a disputed hunting ground or was ambushed by younger members of his village who had hoped to topple him as a village leader. He was found clutching his dagger in the same hand that had been badly wounded— a hand that is believed to be have been so badly cut he couldn’t use some of his fingers.
Offering a scenario on what might have happened, Walter Leitner, an expert on Stone Age culture and archery and an archaeologist at the University of Innsbruck, told National Geographic: “The time had come where his opponents had become stronger but he didn’t recognize that his rein was coming to an end and was holding on to his position....It looks as if the Iceman was planning to flee and that his trip was brought to an end by his opponents.”
Some scholars had suggested before that Otzi may have been ritually killed as part of human sacrifice or religious ritual. But the discovery of blood of others on his clothes and arrow—if that evience holds up—pretty much refutes arguments of that theory. There are still a lot of unknowns. For example it is still not clear if the arrow wound is what killed him. If arteries had been severed he may have bled to death. If not he could have survived a length of time after he was shot.
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 20.3°F 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.
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
stone disks 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 18̊C—64̊F. [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.
"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]
Otzi Memorial 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.
Image Sources: Otzi Museum
Text Sources: Mostly from National Geographic and New York Times articles. Also from the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, Discover magazine, Times of London, Natural History magazine, Archaeology magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Wikipedia, Reuters, AP, AFP, Lonely Planet Guides, World Religions edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); History of Warfare by John Keegan (Vintage Books); History of Art by H.W. Janson Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.), Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2009 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated March 2011