Imagine hiking high in the mountains and suddenly stumbling upon a frozen human body in the ice. This is what happened to two German hikers in 1991 when they discovered Otzi, a 5,300-year-old mummy, in the Tyrolean Alps. Otzi: The Iceman explains the scientific theories of how the Iceman might have lived, survived, and died. As readers learn about Otzi, they can develop their own theories about his life and death.
1. ITALY • EUROPE ÖTZI the ICEMAN Examining New Evidence from by m. vidale, l. bondioli, d.w. frayer, the Famous Copper Age Mummy m. gallinaro, and a. vanzetti he Iceman mummy, nicknamed Ötzi, was dis- body would have been rapidly dried by a strong, warm covered in 1991 amidst sheets of melting ice on wind, and was soon covered by frozen snow. No signs of the Tisenjoch pass of the Similaun glacier in the scavenging activity were visible on the body, and all the Tyrolean Alps. He was found on the border between Italy equipment was left untouched. and Austria, at an altitude of 3,200 m above sea level. He Such a dramatic and even romantic reconstruction is a well-preserved male human corpse, dark in color, and was simple to communicate and visualize. In the follow- dates to the early Copper Age, indicating he is more than ing years, after Ötzi was eventually put on exhibit at the 5,000 years old (ca. 3,250 yrs. cal BCE). His belongings, Bozen Museum in Italy, the mummy became scattered around the body, included a bow and quiver a popular tourist attraction and source of with arrows, a complete copper-bladed axe, a flint dagger revenue. For these and other reasons, it with a wicker sheath, two birch wood vessels clad with was hard to question the original recon- maple leaves, remnants of a backpack, a leather pouch struction of events surrounding the with small objects, fur and leather garments, shoes, and Iceman’s death. Even after careful other minor artifacts. When scientists realized the antiq- excavations in 1992, the complete uity of the find, the media response was overwhelming crime scene findspot was not recon- and Ötzi captivated audiences far and wide. structed. After 20 years, a detailed Was Ötzi Attacked? topographic map of more than 400 Both scholars and the general public gravitated to the artifacts found at the site and the so-called disaster theory in which Ötzi had climbed the analysis of their distribution slopes to the Tisenjoch. On the way or on the pass, he with computer-aided simula- was mortally wounded in an armed attack. tions revealed that body and With an arrow deeply sunk in objects had moved downslope with the his left shoulder, he collapsed ice flow, but originally came from a spot in solitude on the mountain- measuring about 2 x 1 meters (a little top, bleeding to death. His more than 6 feet x 3 feet). left : The flint dagger and its wicker right : This modern recreation of the Iceman sheath found with Ötzi. shows him dressed in garments made from animal hides. Andrea Solero/AFP/Getty Images. EXPEDITION Fall 2016 13
3. ÖTZI THE ICEMAN exposed to circulating air, being encapsulated in ice only stone stelae that, in the later Alpine Copper Age, feature at a later time. Aeolian desiccation may be due to natural armed heroic ancestors or deities. In this light, while or intentional processes. Material evidence is compat- Ötzi may have been a revered tribal chief, later stelae ible with alternative theories: natural desiccation at the celebrate impersonal, perhaps sacred, ancestral identities. findspot (“disaster theory”) or a sort of funerary treat- Growing abstraction of power roles might have been a ment followed by burial at high altitude (“social theory”). side-effect of the evolution of increasingly formalized Today, at Bozen, the body of Ötzi is visible through the political institutions. glass of a special freezing chamber. To keep him publicly viewable while minimizing risk of damage and decay is a demanding and costly challenge. In both technical and economical terms, public presentation and conservation are conflicting needs; the present compromise is required due to Ötzi’s rarity and extreme popularity. The Copper Age on the Similaun Glacier Beyond the details of the mummy’s preservation and burial, Ötzi’s discovery sheds new and unexpected light on Copper Age societies. Healed injuries, such as a hand dagger wound and the fatal arrow shot, possibly coupled with a blow to the head, suggest regular warfare and imply the use of different weapons. Analysis of the gut pollen content suggests that Ötzi had moved at different altitudes, which fits well with a model of squad-raiding warfare. Ötzi the Iceman’s meals demonstrate a fully agrar- Other Icemen? UNLESS OTHERWISE NOTED, ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE SOUTH TYROL MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY ian and pastoral lifeway, but one that was still deeply Was Ötzi an isolated case? Although no evidence exists economically and symbolically involved with the wild, for similarly spectacular discoveries, significant artifacts probably sacred world of the mountains. Daily village life dating to the same period surfaced at similar high- is suggested by ingested cereals, possible cheese residues, altitude Alpine locations. In some cases, such finds (axes, and pottery grains mixed in the food, as well as by goat daggers, arrow heads) are alternatively explained as casu- and cattle skin in the associated garments. However, the al losses by travelers and shepherds, or as parts of buried last meat he ate came from hunted deer and ibex, wild caches. However, at least one other high-altitude Alpine animals that had contributed to other parts of his dress. pass, the Schnidejoch, which has a similar topographic He also wore a cap likely made of bearskin. setting and gradual glacial melting, has revealed clothing Ötzi also had the marks of a leader of his time, with fragments, a wooden bow, a quiver and arrows, and shoe prestigious weapons (dagger, axe, bow, and arrows), tools, fragments. This material has been radiocarbon-dated to and an ornament (a marble bead). The stone and copper between the early 3rd millennium and the 2nd millen- components of these objects precisely match those found nium BCE. Although no bodies have been recovered, in the contemporary graves of the floodplain, but most such finds might come from collapsed graves similar striking are the preserved, highly refined garments. The to that of Ötzi. care with which various animal skins of contrasting Even Alpine folklore suggests that Copper and colors were selected and matched and the elaboration Bronze Age bodies and burials could be preserved by and coordination of the attire point to a complex encod- ice, only to come slowly to light with the transition to ing of role and personal identity. Ötzi’s coat and belt a milder climate. The following legend was recorded in match the highly symbolic imagery of the monumental 1862 by the historian Luigi Cibrario on a high Piedmont EXPEDITION Fall 2016 15
4. ÖTZI THE ICEMAN ; The Iceman's Survival Kit Or were these objects for Ötzi's = voyage to the otherworld? Over 400 artifacts were scattered around the site where the Iceman was found, including these tools and weapons. Medicinal Fungus ; Arrow (notch) = Belt & Pouch % Flint Tools & Awl ( Tinder Fungus (Polypore) % ) Retoucheur (for working flint) + Needle § Arrow (head) & ( + ) BACKGROUND IMAGE BY PLANINASUM § 16 EXPEDITION Volume 58 Number 2
5. ÖTZI THE ICEMAN right :This map shows the distribu- tion of artifacts over the Iceman site. Blue diamonds: heavier items such as pelt and leather. Yellow “x”s: lighter items such as grass and hair-like items. Black empty stars: intrusive items. Light green area: items displaced during excavation. White boulders and stones indicate the platform, the proposed grave Objects designated by red letters: (A) grass mat; (B) backpack frame; (C) axe; (D) bow; (E) birch bark vessel; (F) dagger; (G)quiver; and (H) cap. First published in Antiquity 84.325 (2010): 681-692. valley: it happens that the glaciers that stretch between for further reading the mountains cover a crowd of sinners, both male and Fowler, B. Iceman: Uncovering the Life and Times of a Prehistoric Man Found in an Alpine Glacier. New York: Random House, female, to whom the embrace of God is precluded until 2000. they have destroyed the huge mass of ice with the needles Grosjean, M., Suter, P.J., Trachsel, M., and Wanne, H. “Ice- that they all hold. It is likely that the legend reflects the borne Prehistoric Finds in the Swiss Alps Reflect Holocene sighting of one or more high-altitude Bronze Age burials Glacier Fluctuations.” Journal of Quaternary Science 22 in which the dead, according to the funerary habits of (2007): 203-207. the time, wore long copper pins. Emerging from ice like Oeggl, K., Kofler, W., Schimidl, A., Dickson, J.H., and Egarter Vigl, E. “The Reconstruction of the Last Itinerary of Ötzi, Ötzi, this could very well match the portrayal of sinners the Neolithic Iceman, by Pollen Analyses from Sequentially in old, traditional outdoor shrines of the same region, Sampled Gut Extracts.” Quaternary Science Reviews 26 as black-skinned, almost skeletal figures. Ä (2007): 853-861. Pernter, P., Gostner, P., Egarter Vigl, E., and Rühli, F.J. “Radio- acknowledgments logic Proof for the Iceman’s Cause of Death (ca. 5300 BP).” The authors are very grateful to Francesco Rubat Borel for telling Journal of Archaeological Science 34 (2007): 1784–1786. us about the revealing legend of the sinners with needles mentioned Samadelli, M., ed. The Chalcolithic Mummy: In Search of Immor- at the end of this article. tality. Volume 3. Schriften des Südtiroler Archäologiemuse- ums, Bd. 4. Wien Bozen, Folio Verlag, 2006. massimo vidale , ph . d. (University of Padova), luca bondi- Samadelli, M., Roselli, G., Fernicola, V., Moroder, L. and Zink, oli , ph . d. (National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnogra- A.R. “Theoretical Aspects of Physical-chemical Parameters phy Luigi Pigorini), david w. frayer, ph.d. (University of for the Correct Conservation of Mummies on Display in Kansas), marina gallinaro, ph.d. (Università degli Studi Museums and Preserved in Storage Rooms.” Journal of di Sassari), and alessandro vanzetti, ph.d. (Sapienza Cultural Heritage 14 (2013): 480-484. Schriften des Südtiroler Archäologiemuseums, Bd. 4. Wien- University of Rome) contributed to this study. Bozen, Folio Verlag, 2006. Vanzetti, A., Vidale, M., Gallinaro, M., Frayer, D.W., and Bondioli, L. (2010) “The Iceman as a Burial.” Antiquity 84 (2010): 681–692. EXPEDITION Fall 2016 17