Sunday, September 20, 2015
Ötzi, The Iceman
Note: I'm sorry, but I have no photos to illustrate this post. The museum at Bolzano prohibits photographs, so I've chosen to insert a selfie of Kevin and me with my favorite Italian "ice," gelato! You can see photos of The Iceman at the website link below.
The South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Northern Italy, is the home of Ötzi, The Iceman, a well-preserved mummy who lived around 3,300 B.C. Ötzi was discovered in 1991 by a couple of hikers on a mountain bordering Austria and Italy. Having read the news reports at the time, and later, having seen documentaries on The Iceman, we were determined to stop in Bolzano to learn more.
We were not disappointed. He is Europe's oldest known natural mummy. Ten years after he was found, the scientists studying the body determined he had an arrowhead embedded in his body that had severed a major blood vessel as well as a skull fracture that caused bleeding in the brain. Marks on his hands indicated recent combat, but, of course, no one knows how the events that led to his death played out.
Visitors to the museum can view Ötzi as he rests in a freezer that closely matches the temperature and humidity that preserved him so well in the glacier. Studies and DNA analysis have shown he had parasites and cavities in his teeth, and he was apparently lactose intolerant.
But what is even more fascinating than the man himself are his clothing and tools, which reveal more about his life. It was astonishing to see his shoes--made with a sort of twine and lined with bearskin on the inside. In addition, they found his arrows, quiver, an unfinished longbow, birch baskets, and other items, including grains. He was carrying quite a lot for traversing the mountains.
Of most interest was the ax he carried--the finely crafted copper blade looked like it was made yesterday! The ax surprised the scientists who then had to revise their timetable of when neolithic man first began making tools this sophisticated.
It's impossible to look at Ötzi's belongings without speculating on the kind of life he had, and recognizing our kinship with him. It's a sad commentary that he died in some sort of conflict (or some say a ritual sacrifice, though his unhealed wounds argue for some kind of fight).
If you'd like to know more about The Iceman, click here to explore the museum's English website, which includes information in print and video.