Ötzi, the ice cream man, would not have died in the place we thought

It is one of the most famous natural mummies in history. Ötzi, which was discovered at an altitude of 3,210 meters in 1991, continues to be talked about. More than 30 years after this historic event, the 5,300-year-old man is still at the heart of extensive research. Preserved in the Archaeological Museum of South Tyrol in Bolzano, Italy, his body has been analyzed from every angle in recent decades. From now on, scientists want to know more about the conditions of conservation of his remains at high altitude. A new hypothesis confronts the current discourse.

What was the surprise of these two hikers walking on the border between Italy and Austria when they accidentally discovered a remains trapped in the ice? This September 19, 1991 marks the beginning of more than thirty years of research about this mysterious man of the age of coppercopper. The latter will be at the heart of the oldest Cold box of the world, since the analyzes are clear: he was assassinated. Ötzi, the name given to him by a journalist, has been analyzed from every angle ever since. It remains a fabulous subject of research for archaeologists of course, and many studies are dedicated to it carried out by international teams.

Better understand the environment of Ötzi

The most widespread idea concerning the corpse of Ötzi found in a ravine, is that of a rapid recovery by snow and ice following his death. This implies that he would have died at this precise place. However, for the team of researcher Lars Pilø at the origin of a recent study published in Sage Journals, things look radically different. Although the body, clothing and other items were found scattered in a specific location suggesting it was the death zone, the scientists in this study believe this is not the location. of deceased.

The mystery of Ötzi, the Iceman

It must be said that high altitude discovery has always been an exception in the archaeological world, and even more so in the 1990s. This decade proved to be very favorable to the development of high altitude archeology thanks to an evolution high mountain equipment, and excavation techniques in these particular contexts; and the mountain is a terrain that moves a lot, especially in 5,300 years.

Highly debated life and death conditions

As soon as he was discovered, scientists debated a great deal among themselves through studies and hypotheses in an attempt to paint a composite portrait of the Iceman, both during his lifetime and in all aspects concerning his death and its natural preservation. We now know that Ötzi was not the victim of a accidentaccident mountain but of a murder. That the latter, after being hit by an arrow which passed through his clavicleclavicle and his arteryartery subclavian, simply bled out. In addition, he carries a head traumahead trauma. Following the study of the pollens and seeds found in the mummy, the Archaeological Museum of South Tyrol supports the hypothesis of a death that occurred in late spring or early summer.

A body and objects that would have slipped

The hypothesis of Lars Pilø’s team suggests, in view of the analysis of the terrain and the cold episodes in the region, a death that occurred in another area located even higher, and a corpse laid out on a layer of snow. The latter would have ended up melting, and it would have transported the body and its objects in the famous ravine, place of discovery in 1991. A ravine which allowed the body not to be crushed by the movementsmovements glaciers over the following centuries. For the researchers of this team, the first 1,500 years after death, the body and the objects would have been exposed to theairair sporadically free during episodes of meltingmelting. This runs counter to the idea of ​​body preservation facilitated by the protection of an “ice prison” which only melted in 1991.

Chances of finding other bodies

For the team behind the recently published article, Ötzi, who has been presented for more than 30 years as an exception, could open the way to the discovery of future bodies having benefited from similar conditions in this region. It must be said that other very old archaeological artefacts have been found in the valley and at altitude, such as shoes made of mattermatter vegetable. Without forgetting that, on some glaciers in the region of Trento, we find the naturally mummified bodies of soldiers who died on the Alpine front during the White War during the First World War. Not to mention the Schnidi case, this Neolithic individual whose objects have been found but not the body, and who has been the subject of extensive archaeological research in Switzerland for several years.

Will the arguments of Lars Pilø’s team achieve consensus among Iceman specialists? A debate that will take place by exchange of publications, and possibly during the next World Congress on Mummy Studies, the congress of mummies specialists, the last of which took place in Bolzano in honor of the anniversary of Ötzi’s discovery. An opportunity to determine if the consensus as to the destiny of the body of the ice man evolves in comparison with current discourses or if this new hypothesis turns out to be refuted. Still, the increasingly marked melting of the ice will lead to new discoveries of traces of the past.

Juliette Cazes takes you to the World Congress on mummy studies in Bolzano which was held in September 2022. The opportunity to meet Otzi, the ice mummy? © The Bizarreum


The mystery surrounding the death of Ötzi, a man who lived 5100 to 5350 years ago and whose remains were discovered at an altitude of 3200 meters in the Italian Dolomites, has just been elucidated. He is said to have died following a hemorrhage caused by an arrow wound to the left shoulder, which would have severed an artery.

Article by Jean Étienne, published on June 14, 2007

These are advances made in tomographytomography computerized which enabled a team of scientists from Switzerland and Italy to unravel the mystery. A carved flint arrowhead had already been found in its backback, demonstrating that he had been attacked from behind, possibly while trying to flee. But subsequent examination revealed that the subclavian artery had been severed 13 cm and blood had spilled into surrounding tissue, forming a large hematoma. His hands also had multiple cuts and were covered in blood, and it is not excluded that he tried to remove the projectile himself.

We can conclude that the arrow dealt a mortal blow to Ötzi and that he could not walk for a long time after this injury“, says Dr. Frank Ruhli of theUniversity of Zürich.

Ötzi had been discovered in 1991 by German mountaineers, in an excellent state of preservation favored by the climateclimate. He wore various garments divided into three layers: a loincloth, a deerskin jacket, and a vegetable fiber cape. He was also carrying a small bag containing a firefire made up of a few flint stones and a little tinder. At his side were a bow, arrows, an axe, and a knife placed in a scabbard made of fabric of nettle fibers, as well as pieces of dried mushrooms threaded on a leather strap, possibly a medication.

His body had been the subject of numerous examinations to try to better understand the lifestyle and diet of that time, and the study of theDNADNA from inside his stomachstomach determined that his last meal had consisted of cereals, deer and ibex meat. His skin was marked with 15 groups of tattoos composed of lines obtained by means of lampblack, of which strangely 9 are located along points ofacupunctureacupuncture Chinese. However, this fact is often considered a mere coincidence.

Finally, Ötzi was 49 years old, and measured 1.59 meters for a weight of 40 kgkg.

Leave a Comment