German History: The Discovery of Otzi, "The Iceman"

Essay by IreeMamaCollege, UndergraduateA-, April 2004

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Perhaps the most remarkable discovery of the latter 20th century was that of the iceman, Ötzi. His discovery changed the view of prehistoric life, and gave reason for scientists to rethink the dates of Bronze Age. It is not only remarkable that his body survived for over 5,000 years, but also that his tools and clothing were in such excellent shape. Scientists now know many details about the man known as Ötzi. They know what region he was from, what his diet consisted of, how he died, and many other details.

Ötzi was discovered in a very well preserved state in the Ötzal Alps, on the border of Austria and Italy in the autonomous province of South Tyrol. Due to warm weather, the frozen body was exposed and discovered by two German tourists on September 19, 1991. It was assumed that the body was that of a recently deceased hiker because the body was so well preserved.

The body was left for a few more days and was exhumed by Alpine Rescue workers who damaged it in the process. While the body was defrosting, it became apparent that he was not a modern hiker (Grossruck, "Body"). After being examined, measured, x-rayed, and dated, it was discovered that he had died between 5,100 and 5,350 years ago, at the age of 40 to 45 (Spindler).

In July of 2001, the iceman's death was officially solved after many hypotheses had been proposed for his cause of death. At the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, a sophisticated x-ray technique called computerized tomography revealed a small arrowhead lodged in the iceman's left shoulder. It is likely that he was killed in battle, because of the numerous weapons in his possession. The arrow did not hit any major organs, so it is...