Otzi the Mysterious Ice Man

On 19 September 1991, near the border between Italy and Austria, two German hikers named Helmut and Erika Simon made one of the most incredible discoveries of the 20th century. High in the desolate Otztal Alps, they saw a frozen body with face lying down in the ice. At first they thought they had found the remains of a mountaineer who had died in a fall, immediately the couple informed the authorities, who arranged to visit the site the following day. Next day, the Austrian police arrived at the site and began, somewhat clumsily, to remove the body from its frozen grave. During its extraction from the ice, some of the body's clothing was shredded, a hole was punched in the hip with a jackhammer, and its left arm was snapped while attempting to force the body into a coffin.

The mysterious body which later they called it Otzi, was transported to the University of Innsbruck, where a careful examination revealed that it was definitely not a modern mountaineer. Surprisingly, radiocarbon dating showed that the remains were of a man who had died around 3200 B.C. (in the Late Neolithic period) and was thus the oldest preserved human body ever discovered. Further examinations of Otzi, by current estimates, at the time of his death Ötzi was approximately 1.65 metres (5 ft 5 in) tall, weighed about 50 kg and was about 45 years of age. When his body was found, it weighed 13.750 kg. However, the cause of his death remained a mystery. Analysis of his stomach contents revealed the remains of two meals, the last eaten about eight hours before he died and consisting of a piece of unleavened bread made of einkorn wheat, some roots, and red deer meat. Analysis of extremely well-preserved pollen from the intestines revealed that Otzi died in late spring or early summer.

Otzi the Iceman

Otzi had a total of 57 tattoos on his body, comprising small parallel stripes and crosses, which were made with a charcoal-based pigment. The result was a series of lines and crosses mostly located on parts of the body that are prone to injury or pain, such as the joints and along the back. This has led some researchers to believe that the tattoos marked acupuncture points.

The remains of the Ice Man's clothing were fairly well-preserved by the ice. When he died, Otzi was wearing shoes made from a combination of bearskin soles and a top of deer hide and tree bark, with soft grass stuffed inside for warmth. He also wore a woven grass cloak, which he probably also used as a blanket, and a leather vest and fur cap. Alongside the body, various articles, which the Ice Man had been carrying with him on his last journey, were also discovered. These items consisted of a copper axe with a yew handle, an unfinished yew longbow, a deerskin quiver with two flint-tipped arrows and 12 unfinished shafts, a flint knife and scabbord, a calfskin belt pouch, a medicine bag containing medicinal fungus, a flint and pyrite for creating sparks, a goat-fur rucksack, and a tassel with a stone bead. All of this was invaluable material for painting a picture of the life and death of the Ice Man. High levels of copper and arsenic also found in Otzi's hair show that he had taken part in copper smelting, probably making his own weapons and tools.

The first widely held theory as to why the Ice Man was travelling alone up in the Otztal Alps (and how he met his death) was that he was a shepherd who had been taking care of his flock in an upland pasture. The hypothesis was that he had been caught in an unseasonable storm and found shelter in the shallow gully where he was found. A variant on this theory, proposed by Dr. Konrad Spindler, leader of the scientific investigation into the Ice Man, was based on early x-rays of the body taken at Innsbruck. These x-rays appear to show broken ribs on the body's right side, which Spindler believed were the result of some kind of fight which Otzi had become involved in while returning to his home village with his sheep. Although Otzi had escaped the battle with his life, he eventually died of the injuries. But new examinations of the body in 2001 by scientists at a laboratory in Bolanzo showed that the ribs had been bent out of shape after death, due to snow and ice pressing against the ribcage.

Later it was speculated that Ötzi may have been a victim of a ritual sacrifice, perhaps for being a chieftain. This explanation was inspired by theories previously advanced for the first millennium BCE bodies recovered from peat bogs such as the Tollund Man and the Lindow Man.

A CAT scan of the body showed a foreign object located near the shoulder, in the shape of an arrow. Further examinations revealed that Otzi had a flint arrowhead lodged in his shoulder. The Ice Man had been murdered. A small tear discovered in Otzi's coat appears to be where the arrow entered the body. In June 2002, the same team of scientists discovered a deep wound on the Ice Man's hand, and further bruises and cuts on his wrists and chest, seemingly defensive wounds, all inflicted only hours before his death. Fascinatingly, DNA analysis shows traces of blood from four separate people on Otzi's clothes and weapons: one sequence from his knife blade, two different sequences from the same arrowhead, and a fourth from his goatskin coat.

According to Walter Leitner of the Institute for Ancient and Early History at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, Otzi may have been a Shaman. Leitner believes that, because copper was a scarce material in the Late Neolithic period, only someone of great importance in the community would have owned a copper axe. Shamans are also known to commune with the spirit world in remote locations, such as high mountains. Leitner thinks, he probably murdered by a rival group from the same community who wanted to assume power.

Lorenzo Dal Ri, director of the archaeological office of the Bolzano province, believes that the Ice Man's death may actually have been recorded on an ancient stone stela. The decorated stone, of roughly the same age as the Ice Man, had been used to build the altar of a church in Laces, a town close to the area where the discovery of Otzi was made. One of the many carvings on the stela shows an archer poised to fire an arrow into the back of another unarmed man who appears to be running away. Although there is no direct evidence to link the stone with the murder of the Ice Man, the resemblance between the carved image and the death of Otzi is uncanny.

In February 2006, further light was thrown on the Ice Man when Dr. Franco Rollo (of the University of Camerino in Italy) and colleagues examined mitochondrial DNA (DNA only inherited through the mother) taken from cells in the Ice Man's intestines. The team's conclusion was that Otzi may have been infertile. Dr. Rollo hypothesized that the social implications of his not being able to father offspring may have been a factor in the circumstances which led to his death.

There are still many unanswered questions about the life and death of Otzi. Since his discovery in 1991, Otzi has achieved such popularity that he even has his own version of the "Curse of Tutankhamun." The allegation revolves around the deaths of several people connected to the discovery, recovery and subsequent examination of Ötzi. Because they have died under mysterious circumstances. These persons include co-discoverer Helmut Simon, and Konrad Spindler who died in April 2005, apparently from complications arising from multiple sclerosis; and the Iceman's original discoverer, 67-year-old Helmut Simon, who plunged 300 feet to his death in the Austrian Alps, in October 2004. Incidentally Dieter Warnecke, one of the men who found Simon's frozen body, died of a heart attack shortly after Simon's funeral. To date, the deaths of seven people, of which four were the result of some violence in the form of accidents, have been attributed to the alleged curse. Apparently the latest victim was 63-year-old molecular archaeologist Tom Loy, the discoverer of the human blood on Otzi's clothes and weapons, who died in mysterious circumstances in Australia in October 2005.

However, sceptics argue that the death seven people associated with the Ice Man is not a particularly unusual amount, they also point out that mountaineers naturally have a high rate of mortality due to the dangers of their pursuit. Now Otzi's body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bozen Bolzano, Italy.

Hidden History: "Lost Civilizations, Secret Knowledge and Ancient Mysteries" by Brian Haughton;



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1 comment

Unknown said...

One particular type of murder mystery event that should be avoided is the cold opening murder mystery....Murder mysteries Red Deer

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