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Otzi / Oetzi - The Iceman of the Alps pictures imagesOn 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.
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 former bank 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 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.
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!
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.
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.
"...man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
It seems highly likely that such Human-innate
"bundles of relations and knots of roots"
give rise to the "World" of Human Societies!!!
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