Otzi the Iceman discovery pictures
On Thursday, September 19, 1991, at about 1.30 p.m. on a sunny afternoon
Erika and Helmut Simon, from
Nuremberg in Germany, were enjoying the last day of a vacation half-walking and half-climbing
through difficult icy and rock-strewn terrain high up on a mountain overlooking the Ötz valley
in the Alpine
borderlands between Austria and Italy.
On their descent from a peak near Tisenjoch they strayed a little from
the recommended route in the hope of finding a short cut and, as they traversed a rock-strewn elevated plateau near a retreating mountain glacier
at some 3210 meters above sea level, they passed a gully filled with thawing ice and
melt-water within which they noticed something unusual. Further investigation showed this object, which Helmut Simon at first, and from a little distance, thought to be a "doll's head",
to be an actual human corpse.
Much of these human remains lay under the ice and melt-water but the back of the head and upper
back and shoulders were exposed - the Simons also noticed several pieces of rolled-up tree bark near the body
and took a picture of what they now presumed to be the unfortunate victim of some sort of, quite recent,
accident on the mountain before leaving to report their find at a nearby hiker's shelter.
No more pictures
were taken that day because their camera used rolls of photographic film and when they
discovered the body their camera's roll of film was nearly used up.
The Simons' story featured some years later on "Death of the Iceman" an episode of the BBC2 "Horizon" popular science show first shown 9.00pm Thursday 7 February 2002.
ERIKA SIMON: My husband walked in front of me a bit and then suddenly he stopped and said look at what's lying there and I said oh, it's a body. Then my husband took a photograph,
just one, the last we had left in the camera.
HELMUT SIMON: We thought it was a mountain climber or a skier who'd had an accident perhaps 10 years previously or perhaps two years previously.
The owner of the hiker's shelter, which was located close to the Italian frontier with Austria, called the police on both sides of the border. The Italian carabinieri, believing the body was that of an ill-fated
climber, showed no interest. Their Austrian counterparts, who had already pulled eight corpses out of glaciers that summer, said they would investigate by the next afternoon.
The following day, an Austrian policeman arrived by helicopter and attempted, with the assistance of a mountain rescue keeper, to free the body
with a pneumatic jackhammer. The task was made difficult by the presence of quantities of icy melt water and the powerful tool they were using actually
chewed up the Iceman's garments and even ripped
into his left hip, exposing the bone. In the event this recovery attempt was curtailed as the pair ran out of compressed air to power the
jackhammer. A curiously-fashioned axe they discovered near the corpse was taken to a gendarmerie post in Sölden.
The Austrian authorities decided to wait until the following
week to resume the recovery; the helicopter, they explained, was needed for more important things.
Over following days word of the discovery spread and several persons whose curiousity had been aroused proceeded to the discovery site.
Many items were recovered
by the mountain rescue worker who returned to the site on Sunday 22 September. One of the on-lookers used a pickaxe in further attempts to free the body from the melting ice.
Overnight, however, the
temperature dropped. By the time Innsbruck forensics
expert Dr. Rainer Henn arrived to investigate the death, on Monday, Sept. 23, the body was again locked in ice. Having neglected to bring tools,
Henn and his team resorted to hacking it out with a
borrowed ice pickaxe and ski pole.
Whilst the frozen body itself was being removed under the supervision
of the forensics expert the process was being recorded on film by a film crew brought to the site by news of the unusual find.
The remains were then taken from the mountain by helicopter to the town of Vent in the Austrian Ötz Valley and then
on to the Institute of
Forensic Medicine in Innsbruck, Austria.
Fatalities occur every year in the high alps due to such things as climbing accidents, exhaustion,
adverse weather or sudden deaths. The bodies of such victims are often recovered shortly afterwards but
they can also subsequently disappear
into the snowy landscape.
Although some eight bodies had already been recovered from the
high alps already in 1991 an archaeological expert was called in to give advice in this particular case because some of
the artifacts discovered with the body seemed to be potentially very ancient.
It was only then, after five days of heavy-handed mistreatment, that the Iceman was given professional assessment. Arriving at the Institute of
Forensic Medicine, Konrad Spindler, head of Innsbruck's Institute for Prehistory,
was stunned, immediately realizing the significance of the shriveled body. "I thought this was perhaps what my colleague Howard Carter experienced when he opened the tomb of Tutankhamen
and gazed into the face of the Pharaoh."
By the time Dr. Spindler arrived at the Institute of Forensic Medicine the Iceman's remains had become the centerpiece of an informal press conference.
While the Iceman and his some of his tattered belongings lay on a dissecting table under blazing lights, reporters and other hangers-on
joked, smoked and even touched the body. Not until late afternoon did someone notice a fungus spreading on the Iceman's skin.
To prevent further damage, the body was bathed in fungicide, wrapped in a sterilized plastic sheet, covered with chipped ice and moved it to a refrigerated room at the university.
There, except for 30-minute intervals when it was subsequently removed for CAT scans and other scientific tests, the Iceman was stored at 98% humidity and -6 degrees C (21.2 degrees F),
the glacial temperature that it had grown accustomed to over the many, many, years prior to its discovery.
Given this realisation of extreme archaeological significance the gully in which Otzi had been found was thoroughly investigated -
- a process which involved much melting of ice. The various official and unofficial attempts at freeing the frozen body from the ice had, unfortunately, done harm
which tended to somewhat lessen the potential archaeological value of the site. Numerous pieces of leather and hide, string, straps and
clumps of hay were recovered and preserved for further study.
International complications came into play as, although the body was discovered in a place where waters as they
drained from this part of the Alps flowed
towards Austria, its actual resting-place was confirmed, by a subsequent border survey of early October, to have been some 93 metres
inside the Italian border. Agreements were reached between the relevant authorities allowing for the continued
responsibility for the investigation of the corpse to lie with the Forensic Institute at Innsbruck.
A dispute about "ownership" of Ötzi the Iceman, as the remains became known in
an emerging world-wide fascination with
this "cold case" of an ice mummy found on the Austrian-Italian frontier, continued for six years until,
early in 1998, under armed guard, (because some Austrians had shown dis-satisfaction to see this relocation), Otzi
and his belongings were transported from the Institute of Anatomy of the University of Innsbruck over the Brenner
Pass to a new and purpose-built refrigerated resting place in a converted
building selected for its favourable location in the historical center of Bolzano - of an important town within Italy that was reasonably
close to the actual discovery site: the conversion cost some €8,800,000 then roughly equivalent to $10,000,000.
This converted building, (formerly a bank), is now known as
the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology and is located
in the provincial city of Bolzano in Italy's largely German-speaking Alto Adige / Sud Tyrol / South Tyrol region.
The gully in which the body was found had helped to preserve it, in its frozen state, from the immense weight of snow which
seems to have
covered the site for most of the several millenia since Ötzi, ( pronounced Oot-zee, and often actually spelled Oetzi ), lost his life. Ötzi's
remains must have been claimed
by icy cold quite soon after his demise as even his internal organs were found to be intact - they were able
for instance to actually analyse his stomach contents which included ibex meat and primitively cultivated "einkorn" grains.
Over several years of subsequent investigation forensic findings relating to this frozen body in the Alps included
the time of death as being some 5,300
years ago - in the late stone / early copper age! The deceased being a male of some 45 years of age with tattoos on his body and worn,
but otherwise perfect, teeth and a probably quite troublesome infestation of intestinal whipworms.
The deceased had come to a violent end - an arrowhead was found buried in the body and there was evidence of Ötzi
having been heavily struck on the head perhaps with a blunt instrument or perhaps as the result of a fall.
The medical examination held that either the arrow wound or the head trauma were sufficiently damaging as to cost Otzi his life.
Based on the evidence of the several artifacts found together with the remains researchers
now attribute a perhaps surprising degree of technological attainment to the Ötzi the Iceman and
his late stone / early copper age colleagues. It was realised that those trying
to recover the body had unwittingly trampled all over a hugely significant archaeological site and had even
broken Ötzi's stone-age bow and the frame of his stone-age back pack, in trying to prize him from the ice.
There is evidence of quite detailed attention to the preparation of clothing with which to dress against the cold:-
And evidence of a sophisticted range of tools:-
The above selection of items, (a bow made of yew and a quiver full of arrows were also recovered), include an axe with
a handle of yew together with a refined copper blade held in place by leather strips and a type of
tarry pitch derived from processed birch tree sap. In fact it was largely the finding of this 99.7% pure copper blade in circumstances
which allowed dating to five thousand three hundred years ago that pushed back archaeologists previous assessment
of the beginnings of the so-called "copper age" in Europe by a thousand years!
Traces of copper and arsenic were found in Ötzi's hair consistent with some exposure to fumes from copper smelting.
There is also a flint blade knife with its scabbard (on right), and the tubular
item in the centre is called a retoucheur.
This example of a retoucheur is an approximately 12 cm-long pencil-like tool for working with flint
was made from a piece of
lime branch which was shaped to a point at one end. At the pointed end an approximately 6 cm-long rod was driven
into the central canal, leaving a few millimetres protruding. The rod turned out to be the fire-hardened point of
a stag's antler.
To fashion tools of flint, a flint cobble would first be hammered with hard blows to produce flakes and crude blades.
These were then precisely shaped by pressing against the edge of the workpiece with a retoucheur to remove small
fragments. The same method is used to resharpen dull edges.
When the end of the retoucheur became blunt with wear, it could be sharpened like a pencil.
As to the tattoos - one of several groups of vertical lines are located to the left and right of the spinal column.
Others are on the left
on the right instep and on the inner and outer ankle joint, two further lines cross the left wrist. A cross-shaped mark
appears on the back of the right knee and beside the left Achilles tendon.
Later researchers considered that the tattoos may have been intended as therapeutic measures to hopefully combat arthritis rather than as
decorative or religious symbols as, astonishingly, these tattooed areas seem to correspond to accepted skin acupuncture
Before Ötzi it was thought that this
treatment had only originated two thousand years later in Asia.
The remains of Ötzi the Iceman now lie in the Südtiroler Archeologiemuseum in Bozen / Bolzano in Italy's
where they are stored in a nitrogen rich atmosphere under conditions of controlled temperature and humidity,
which are designed to guarantee a constant temperature of -6 degrees Centigrade and a relative humidity of 98%,
for their preservation but can be
seen through a 40cm x 30cm viewing window by interested visitors.
The space devoted to the Iceman occupies most of the first floor of the museum and consists of a decontamination room, an examining room, and two adjoining identical refrigeration chambers
with independent cooling systems.
There has, seemingly, been some discussion as to whether Otzi should be allowed to have a "decent" burial ceremony and be
"laid to rest" away from the public gaze.
The museum authorities consider, however, that they do try to treat his remains with respect and with scientific care
- they also point out that after 5,300 years old they would not be able to bury him in accordance with the ceremonial customs of his own people.
Besides which science can hope to learn much from Otzi in his present situation. Recent advances in the study of DNA, for example, have led to the
decoding of Otzi's entire DNA genome, in 2010, from which Science can hope to learn important lessons about the development of modern man's genetically
related susceptibility to certain diseases.
Also as of 2010 the authorities in Italy's Sud Tirol / Alto Adige autonomous region were endeavouring to secure
formal United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) heritage recognition for
the importance of Ötzi the Iceman -
official reconstruction, (dating from a science-based reconstruction of 1998 and still current as of 2010), pictured above.
2011 was the 20th anniversary year of the Iceman discovery.
A major series of events was planned for an extensive Ötzi exhibition
is to be mounted at
the South Tyrol Archaeology Museum in Bolzano beginning on 1st March 2011 and to be continued until 15th January 2012.
Acknowledged experts in reconstructive interpretation were engaged to assist in a project to re-present a new image of Otzi
based on CAT scans, 3D images of the mummy's skull, infrared and tomographic images and other evidences.
Over several months the new Ötzi reconstruction was a closely guarded secret. The veiled figure, pictured left (copyright © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology / Oskar Dariz / Gruppe Gut), formed the main motif of the exhibition, and was
intended to arouse curiosity about Ötzi's new appearance.
In late February, 2011, some previews of the new visualisation of Otzi's appearance became available.
Heike Engel-21Lux / Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum / National Geographic Deutschland
A reconstruction of the face and head of Otzi the Iceman as created by Dutch forensic experts Alfons and Adrie Kennis.
Reconstruction by Kennis © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology / Foto Ochsenreiter
The new reconstruction offers a vivid interpretation of Otzi as a late stone-age / early copper-age hunter.
The reconstruction, as fully revealed on 1 March, depicts Otzi as having been a man of medium height, of a slight-yet-wiry body type, with narrow, sharp features, an unruly beard and tanned,
"The aim of the (Ötzi 20) exhibition is to present a more rounded picture of Ötzi beyond the purely scientific aspect," museum director Angelika
Fleckinger said in a statement.
Anthropologist Albert Zink, head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, who worked with forensic artists on the reconstruction,
said that the new model is half naked only "to show that his body was muscular and well trained," and that "for sure, it would have been too cold to walk around like this,
especially in the mountains."
In 1994 the Italian authoritiies
offered a "symbolic" reward of 10 million lire (5,200 Euros), to the Simons, (pictured left), for their part in Oetzi's discovery and recovery.
The Simons, however, turned this down.
Possibly as a result of the on-going dispute the Simons were not invited to an high-profile celebration of the tenth anniversary of
the Otzi discovery in 2001. They have also found themselves to be expected to pay their way into the Otzi Museum - just like everybody else.
In November, 2003, the Simons
were legally recognised by the Italian courts as the "finders" of the Iceman mummy and therefore entitled, under Italian law, to one quarter
of Oetzi's "value".
The Museum, meanwhile, maintained that it was a not-for-profit organisation, with the millions being paid annually by the hundreds of
thousands of visitors as
entrance fees to the Iceman exhibition being spent on the upkeep of the museum and allied research projects.
Moreover Oetzi could not be "sold"
like a great work of art might be passed from one owner to another!
Bolzano is an inherently attractive town in the highly scenic Dolomite mountain region but the presence of Otzi in the
town must contribute to its prosperity as tourism centre.
Ironically Helmut Simon met his own end in the freezing cold of the high mountains. In mid-October 2004, he had, at age 67,
still been pursuing his passion for mountain walking and had set out, alone, for what should have been a modest four-hour round trip
in mountains in Austria's Salzburg province.
Helmut Simon failed to return as
expected - there were heavy snowfalls and the temperatures were close to freezing - his body was recovered some eight days later.
He had apparently fallen some 100 metres from a mountain path and died instantly.
In May, 2010, after an almost twenty-year long dispute, the Simon family was awarded 175,00 Euros (including legal fees), in recognition of the
Erika and Helmut Simons' role
in the discovery and recovery of Ötzi.
According to Ralph Waldo Emerson -
"...man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world..."
It seems highly possible that such Human-innate
"bundles of relations and knots of roots"
give rise to the "World" of, (non-ideological / non-doctrinaire), Human Societies!!!
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