The Curse of the 5,000 Year Old Frozen Iceman

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ÖtziPhoto: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

September 19th, 1991. Two German hikers were on their way up through the Ötztal Alps when they discovered a well-preserved human mummy – the oldest ever found in Europe. The controversial discovery was made in Hauslabjoch, on the border between Austria and Italy. It led to numerous hypotheses regarding how old the man was he when he died, how he died, in what state of health he was when he met his unfortunate end, and above all what he doing there high in the snow-covered Alps.

otziPhoto: © South Tyrol Museum of ArchaeologyÖtzi shortly after the discovery of the body in September 1991, when it was still frozen in the glacier and had not yet been removed

Also known as the Tyrolean Ice Man, Ötzi was found to be about 45 years old when he died and was discovered equipped with many tools such as a stone axe, an unfinished bow stave, a leather quiver, and a backpack frame made of larch and hazel. At the time, some of these items were only supposed to have been in use about a thousand years ago. A lot of research has been done on Ötzi’s frozen remains, and archaeologists believe that he perhaps existed during the Neolithic Copper-Age Transition in Central Europe more than 5,000 years ago.

The study of Ötzi’s bodily tissues indicate the his death perhaps occurred somewhere around 3,200 BC. (Radiocarbon dating is a technique used to determine the age of ancient archeological objects as old as 50,000 years old.)

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Ötzi with docPhoto: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology

The controversy: Was Ötzi a shaman or a shepherd?

Like I said, Ötzi’s body was remarkably well-preserved, as was his clothing. It soon became a serious matter of discussion among scientists, researchers and archaeologists as to whether he had been a shaman or a shepherd? The first theory says that since Ötzi was found equipped with tools such as arrow shafts, a longbow made of yew and a stone knife, perhaps he was simply a shepherd. However, not everyone agrees.

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