|Ötzi the Iceman|
Occasionally, a chance discovery brings us literally face to face with our ancient past. Bog bodies, which are usually well preserved, are one example of such finds. Perhaps, the best-known discovery of a mummified body in Europe is ‘Ötzi’ the Iceman.
About 5,300 years ago, Ötzi was shot with an arrow, struck on the head, and left to die near a mountain pass high in the Alps. In 1991, hikers near the Italian-Austrian border discovered his body in a glacier. Ötzi is the oldest mummy in Europe. What can he tell us about our Neolithic ancestors: how they lived, the tools and weapons they used, and the clothing they wore?
Where he came from
The research confirmed that modern Sardinians are Ötzi's closest relatives. However, he most closely resembled prehistoric farmers found in Bulgaria and Sweden. Ötzi was a native of Central Europe and not a first-generation émigré from Sardinia, according to new research.
The new findings support the theory that farmers, and not just the technology of farming, spread during prehistoric times from the Middle East all the way to Finland.
Where he grew up
Ötzi wasn't far from home when he died. Scientists concluded that he didn't live in the Alps as such, but spent most of his life in Isack Valley or the lower Puster Valley, in the northernmost part of what is now Italy. He probably spent the last 10 years of his life in an area south and west of his previous home, not far from where he died.
Contact between people who lived south and north of the Alps at this time was thought to have been limited. However, people who travelled in the Alps had a very deep knowledge of the landscape and its conditions due to their experience with hunting, herding, and exploring natural resources in these areas. It is thought likely that Ötzi traded furs or domestic animals.
The Neolithic herdsman carried several pieces of equipment when he died, including numerous wooden tools that were used to make clothing or utensils. Among the equipment he carried was an axe of almost pure copper thought to have been a status symbol, indicating that he ranked high in his pastoralist culture. Its wooden handle and leather straps were still preserved. Ötzi was also carrying a bow and arrow, which he had leaned against a tree before he died.
|Copper Axe found with Ötzi's Body|
Researchers have now traced the source of the metal in Ötzi’s axe to southern Tuscany. It had been thought that people living around the Alps at that time got their copper locally or from the Balkans.
Another copper axe
Archaeologists have found a copper blade in Switzerland resembling the axe Ötzi was carrying when he died. It was made from copper that also came from Tuscany. The axe was discovered in Zug-Riedmatt, one of the many pile-dwelling villages around the Alps famous for their prehistoric wooden houses built on stilts on lakeshores and other wetlands. This new axe was between 5,300 and 5,100 years old and missing its wooden handle.
Most of Ötzi's clothing was badly disintegrated, but researchers did manage to retrieve parts of his sheep and cow leather shoes, goatskin leggings, bear fur cap, and animal skin loincloth. The iceman also carried a grass mat or cape with him, either to sleep on or shield him from the rain.
|Some of the Clothing Worn by Ötzi the Iceman|
Ötzi wore garments made from the skins of different animals. His leather overcoat was made from at least four different individual animals from two species of sheep and goat while his lighter coat was made of sheep. His leather shoes were stuffed with grass, with shoelaces made from wild cow or auroch (an extinct species of large wild cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is the ancestor of domestic cattle). His furry hat was made from brown bear while his quiver was made from a roe deer.
Scientists found that the Iceman had tooth decay, ate an agricultural diet, and had Lyme disease. The oldest red blood cells ever identified have been found in his body. Ötzi suffered from heart disease and joint pain before he died. Analysis of his skeleton revealed he had bad knees and was lactose intolerant.
Scientists sequenced Ötzi's entire genome and compared it with those from hundreds of modern-day Europeans, as well as the genomes of a Stone Age hunter-gatherer found in Sweden, a farmer from Sweden, a 7,000-year-old hunter-gatherer iceman found in Iberia, and an Iron Age man found in Bulgaria. Researchers have established from genetic analysis that Ötzi has living relatives in the region.
Ötzi and his present-day relatives share a common ancestor, who may have lived 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. His mother's family appears to have originated in the Alps and did not spread from there. Researchers concluded that Ӧtzi's maternal line appears to have died out as the genetic lineage does not exist in modern populations alive today.
Probable cause of death
Scientists estimate that Ötzi was 45 years of age when he met his violent death in the mountains. His last meal included red deer meat with herb bread. The probable cause of his death was an arrow wound to the shoulder that sliced an artery.
The fact that he had an undigested meal in his stomach suggests the Iceman was ambushed, but scientists couldn't agree whether he was bashed over the head or killed by an arrow that nicked an artery in his shoulder. In a 2012 study, scientists analysed the mummy's red blood cells and concluded that Ötzi bled to death after the arrow wound.
Ötzi's perfectly preserved body is stored in a specially designed cold storage chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy at a constant temperature of -6°C (21°F).
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