Ötzi is a nickname given to the well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived around 3,300 BCE, more precisely between 3359 and 3105 BCE, with a 66 percent chance that he died between 3239 and 3105 BCE. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, hence the nickname "Ötzi", near Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy. He is Europe's oldest known natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy.
Ötzi the Iceman while still frozen in the glacier, photographed by Helmut Simon upon the discovery of the body in September 1991. Ötzi was found on 19 September 1991 by two German tourists, at an elevation of 3,210 metres on the east ridge of the Fineilspitze in the Ötztal Alps on the Austrian–Italian border. The tourists, Helmut and Erika Simon, were walking off the path between the mountain passes Hauslabjoch and Tisenjoch. They believed that the body was of a recently deceased mountaineer. The next day, a mountain gendarme and the keeper of the nearby Similaunhütte first attempted to remove the body, which was frozen in ice below the torso, using a pneumatic drill and ice-axes, but had to give up due to bad weather. The next day, eight groups visited the site, among whom happened to be the famous mountaineers Hans Kammerlander and Reinhold Messner. The body was semi-officially extracted on 22 September and officially salvaged the following day. It was transported to the office of the medical examiner in Innsbruck, together with other objects found. On 24 September the find was examined there by archaeologist Konrad Spindler of the University of Innsbruck. He dated the find to be "about four thousand years old", based on the typology of an axe among the retrieved objects.
It is possible that Ötzi's death may 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 Latsch, a town close to the area where the discovery of Ötzi was made. One of the carvings shows an archer being poised to fire an arrow towards the back of an unarmed man who is running away.
The corpse has been extensively examined, measured, X-rayed, and dated. Tissues and intestinal contents have been examined microscopically, as have the items found with the body. In August 2004, frozen bodies of three Austro-Hungarian soldiers killed during the Battle of San Matteo (1918) were found on the mountain Punta San Matteo in Trentino. One body was sent to a museum in the hope that research on how the environment affected its preservation would help unravel Ötzi's past.
The Iceman from the chest up lying on stainless steel table, with his left arm across his body just between the top of his right shoulder and under his chin
Analysis of Ötzi's intestinal contents showed two meals, one of chamois meat, the other of red deer and herb bread. Both were eaten with grain as well as roots and fruits. The grain from both meals was a highly processed einkorn wheat bran, quite possibly eaten in the form of bread. In the proximity of the body, and thus possibly originating from the Iceman's provisions, chaff and grains of einkorn and barley, and seeds of flax and poppy were discovered, as well as kernels of sloes and various seeds of berries growing in the wild. Hair analysis was used to examine his diet from several months before.
Pollen in the first meal showed that it had been consumed in a mid-altitude conifer forest, and other pollens indicated the presence of wheat and legumes, which may have been domesticated crops. Pollen grains of hop-hornbeam were also discovered. The pollen was very well preserved, with the cells inside remaining intact, indicating that it had been fresh at the time of Ötzi's death, which places the event in the spring. Einkorn wheat is harvested in the late summer, and sloes in the autumn; these must have been stored from the previous year.
In 2009, a CAT scan revealed that the stomach had shifted upward to where his lower lung area would normally be. Analysis of the contents revealed the partly digested remains of ibex meat, confirmed by DNA analysis, suggesting he had a meal less than two hours before his death. Wheat grains were also found.
High levels of both copper particles and arsenic were found in Ötzi's hair. This, along with Ötzi's copper axe blade, which is 99.7% pure copper, has led scientists to speculate that Ötzi was involved in copper smelting.
By examining the proportions of Ötzi's tibia, femur and pelvis, Christopher Ruff has determined that Ötzi's lifestyle included long walks over hilly terrain. This degree of mobility is not characteristic of other Copper Age Europeans. Ruff proposes that this may indicate that Ötzi was a high-altitude shepherd.
Using modern 3-D technology, a facial reconstruction has been created for the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. It shows Ötzi looking old for his 45 years, with deep-set brown eyes, a beard, a furrowed face, and sunken cheeks. He is depicted looking tired and ungroomed.
It was initially believed that Ötzi died from exposure during a winter storm. 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.
In 2001 X-rays and a CT scan revealed that Ötzi had an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder when he died, and a matching small tear on his coat. The discovery of the arrowhead prompted researchers to theorize Ötzi died of blood loss from the wound, which would probably have been fatal even if modern medical techniques had been available. Further research found that the arrow's shaft had been removed before death, and close examination of the body found bruises and cuts to the hands, wrists and chest and cerebral trauma indicative of a blow to the head. One of the cuts was to the base of his thumb that reached down to the bone but had no time to heal before his death. Currently, it is believed that the cause of death was a blow to the head, but researchers are unsure of what inflicted the fatal injury.
Recent DNA analyses claim they revealed traces of blood from at least four other people on his gear: one from his knife, two from the same arrowhead, and a fourth from his coat. Interpretations of these findings were that Ötzi killed two people with the same arrow, and was able to retrieve it on both occasions, and the blood on his coat was from a wounded comrade he may have carried over his back. Ötzi's posture in death could support a theory that before death occurred and rigor mortis set in, the Iceman was turned onto his stomach in the effort to remove the arrow shaft.
In 2010, it was proposed that Ötzi died at a much lower altitude and was buried higher in the mountains, as posited by archaeologist Alessandro Vanzetti of the Sapienza University of Rome and his colleagues. According to their study of the items found near Ötzi and their locations, it is possible that the iceman may have been placed above what has been interpreted as a stone burial mound but was subsequently moved with each thaw cycle that created a flowing watery mix driven by gravity before being re-frozen. While archaeobotanist Klaus Oeggl of the University of Innsbruck agrees that the natural process described probably caused the body to move from the ridge that includes the stone formation, he pointed out that the paper provided no compelling evidence to demonstrate that the scattered stones constituted a burial platform. Moreover, biological anthropologist Albert Zink argues that the iceman's bones display no dislocations that would have resulted from a downhill slide and that the intact blood clots in his arrow wound would show damage if the body had been moved up the mountain. In either case, the burial theory does not contradict the possibility of a violent cause of death.