What a Frozen Alpine Goat Can Teach Us About Famous Ice Mummies

What a Frozen Alpine Goat Can Teach Us About Famous Ice Mummies

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DNA is especially important now in understanding our ancestors and the past. However, there is a problem in that it can often be difficult to analyze and preserve. The discovery of a mummified chamois, a goat like animal that is indigenous to mountainous areas of Europe, is now helping experts to evaluate DNA without damaging it irretrievably. This research can aid in the development of new conservation techniques for similar mummified remains. This means the frozen goat may be useful when it comes to understanding famous ice mummies .

The mummified chamois was found in the Val Aurina, South Tyrol, in the Italian Alps by some mountaineers. Experts from Eurac went to the site and one of them, Hermann Oberlechner, an Alpinist “realised that he was faced with a highly unique discovery and informed the relevant ranger,”according to Eurac. The item had been preserved for some four centuries and had only been recently revealed by a retreating glacier. Oberlechner told Science Daily that “Only half of the animal's body was exposed from the snow. The skin looked like leather, completely hairless; I had never seen anything like it.”

“Only half of the animal's body was exposed from the snow. The skin looked like leather, completely hairless; I had never seen anything like it.” ( Esercito Italiano - Comando Truppe Alpine )

Helicopter Transport for a Frozen Goat

It took a great deal of collaboration and care to remove the blanket of snow that covered the goat, which was not damaged while being removed. The experts wanted to get the chamois off the mountain so that it could be studied and preserved, but there was a problem. The discovery site is impassable and can only be reached by climbing and hiking for several hours.

The Italian Alpine Army Corps were asked for their assistance and they provided a helicopter. This brought the chamois remains down from the mountain and to a Eurac research center, where it has been placed in a refrigerated cell.

Marco Samadelli, conservation expert at Eurac Research, and Eurac Research anthropologist Alice Paladin with the 400-year-old chamois discovered in Val Aurina, South Tyrol (Italy). The discovery site, at 3200 m MSL, is impassable and can only be reached by a six-hour hike. For this reason, following their initial inspection, the researchers decided to ask for the support of the Alpine Army Corps in the recovery of the animal. (Esercito Italiano - Comando Truppe Alpine )

The chamois is not that important in itself, but it was soon realized that it could be useful as a simulant for research on biological matter that has been frozen. Marco Samadelli, a conservation expert at Eurac, told Heritage Daily that “Thanks to our previous studies we know the optimal physical and chemical parameters for preservation from a microbiological point of view.”

The chamois can be studied specifically with regard to the DNA and how conditions in the extreme cold altered its make-up. Samadelli told Heritage Daily “With repeated in-depth analysis we will verify what alterations the DNA undergoes when external conditions change.”

Immediately, the experts recognized that the chamois could be useful when developing new techniques to understand the DNA of ice mummies. Albert Zink, who heads research on Ice mummies at Eurac, is quoted by Heritage Daily as saying that “Our goal is to use scientific data to develop a globally valid conservation protocol for ice mummies. This is the first time an animal mummy has been used in this way.”

  • Mummy Juanita: The Sacrifice of the Inca Ice Maiden
  • Making the Dead Speak: Scientists Plan to Recreate the Voice of Otzi the Iceman
  • Desecration and Romanticization – The Real Curse of Mummies

Preserving Ice Mummies

The frozen chamois can allow researchers to have a better understanding of ice mummies. Eureka Alerts reports that ‘an intact animal mummy is a perfect simulant for research.’ It can allow scientists to develop new techniques on how to extract DNA . These can then be used in new ways, not only to study ice mummies, but also to help preserve them, which is often very challenging.

As glaciers melt around the world, often due to climate change, many amazing finds are being made. Several crucial discoveries are being made in mountains, above the snowline. Lots of these discoveries include biological remains and human remains that have been mummified thanks to the extreme cold – the ice mummies. Naturally, they offer a unique opportunity for specialists to study the past.

Mummy Juanita and Ötzi, Two Famous Ice Mummies

Ötzi or Utzi is one of the most famous ice mummies to have been uncovered so far. This is the mummy of a man who died over 5000 years ago in the Chalcolithic (Copper Age). Mummy Juanita is another famous ice mummy. This is the name given to the preserved remains of a young Inca girl who was killed as part of a sacrifice during the 16th century in the Andes.

Ötzi ( CC BY NC ND 2.0 ) and Mummy Juanita. ( Mummy Juanita )

Ice mummies are known as natural mummies because they have been preserved by natural conditions. These cadavers have not been subject to human procedures that mummified them as opposed to the case with Egyptian mummies .

The chamois remains are currently being evaluated at the Eurac Research Conservation Laboratory. This laboratory is dedicated to understanding how frozen mummies are preserved. The chamois can help specialists to develop preservation systems that can ensure that the remains of others are preserved, for posterity and especially, their crucial DNA.

12 Things You May Not Know About Otzi the Iceman

Michael d’Estries is a co-founder of the green celebrity blog Ecorazzi. He has been writing about culture, science, and sustainability since 2005—his work has appeared on Business Insider, CNN, and Forbes.

In 1991, a group of hikers exploring the Ötztal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border came across the mummified corpse of a person half-entombed in ice. Because the find was at an elevation of 10,530 feet, the group initially suspected that the remains belonged to a lost mountaineer. Local officials brought in to examine the scene further floated the possibility that it was the body of an Italian solider lost during one of the World Wars.

Only after archaeologists had a chance to examine Otzi, so-named for the mountain range where he was discovered, did the stunning truth of his age come to light. Using radiocarbon dating, scientists determined that he had perished in the Alps an astounding 5,300 years earlier. The preservation from the ice pocket he fell into was so thorough that his brain, internal organs, penis, pubic hair and one of his eyeballs were all completely intact.

In the time since his discovery, Otzi has become a veritable celebrity of the scientific world — providing insights and blowing away assumptions about the ancient world. Below are just a few of the secrets researchers have uncovered from the Iceman, his possessions and the circumstances surrounding his unusual death.

Iceman's Stomach Sampled—Filled With Goat Meat

Missing until 2009, mummy's stomach found to contain lumps of last meal.

Hours before he died, "Ötzi" the Iceman gorged on the fatty meat of a wild goat, according to a new analysis of the famous mummy's stomach contents.

The frozen body of the Copper Age hunter was discovered in 1991 in the Alps of northern Italy, where he died some 5,000 years ago.

The circumstances surrounding Ötzi's death are not fully known, but the most popular theory—based in part on the discovery of an arrowhead in his back—is that he was murdered by other hunters while fleeing through the mountains.

Scientists previously analyzed the contents of Ötzi's lower intestine and determined that he ate a meal of grains along with possibly cooked red deer and goat meat up to 30 hours before his death.

But attempts using an endoscopic tool to sample Ötzi's stomach were unsuccessful.

The reason for the failure became clear in 2009, when scientists studying CAT scans of Ötzi discovered that the Iceman's stomach had shifted upward after death, to where the lower part of his lungs would normally be.

"Why it moved upward, we don't know," said Frank Maixner, a microbiologist at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, who was involved in the new investigation.

The team found the stomach by examining other associated organs, which had maintained their relative positions to one another when they shifted.

The team found gallstones in the gall bladder, for instance, and from there could identify the stomach.

As a result of the natural mummification process, Ötzi's stomach had shrunk considerably. But the researchers were able to get sample of its contents, which—like the intestines—contained evidence of meat and wheat grains.

What's more, the state of the partially digested food suggests the Iceman ate a substantial meal less than two hours before his death.

"The stomach content is yellowish to brownish colored and mushy, with some bigger pieces of meat and grain," Maixner said.

(Also see National Geographic magazine's "Last Hours of the Iceman.")

DNA analysis of the meat showed that it came from an ibex, a wild goat species whose males have large, backward-curving horns. (See pictures of modern Alpine ibex scaling an Italian dam.)

Ibex would have been much more common in Ötzi's day and would have been a good source of meat for hunters.

The animals are usually skittish around humans and will flee at the first opportunity, but a skilled hunter can creep up on one under the right circumstances.

For example, "during certain periods when the males are fighting each other, you can get as close as 20 to 50 meters [65 to 160 feet]," Maixner said.

According to past studies, such a distance would have been just within range of the bow and arrows that were found with Ötzi, he added.

It's unclear if the ibex meat was cooked, but it's possible that it was, especially since ash particles associated with other meals, possibly from cooking fires, were found in Ötzi's lower intestine, Maixner said.

Still, strands of animal hair and fly parts also found in Ötzi's stomach suggest the Iceman wasn't overly concerned with cleaning the meat before he ate it.

"It wasn't the most hygienic of meals," Maixner said.

The new Iceman research was presented at the 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies in San Diego, California, earlier this month.


Upon closer inspection, he realized he'd stumbled across something extraordinary.

'Only half of the animal's body was exposed from the snow,' Oberlechner said in a statement.

Hermann Oberlechner found the carcass 10,500 feet above sea level in a section of the Alps that's inaccessible to road vehicles. So researchers build a custom case and had it helicoptered out by the Alpine Army Corp

'The skin looked like leather, completely hairless. I had never seen anything like it.'

He quickly notified a park ranger and they contacted the Department of Cultural Heritage.

But Oberlechner was 10,500 feet above sea level in a section of the Alps that's inaccessible to road vehicles.

So the department called the Alpine Army Corps, who sent in a helicopter flown by a pilot trained to operate at high altitude.

The specimen was placed inside a custom-made case and hooked to the copter before being taken to Eurac Research's conservation lab in Bolzano, Italy.

While they are encased in a glacier, these 'ice mummies' are perfectly preserved. But as the temperature drops their DNA begins to degrade quickly. Experts say more specimens will be discovered as global warming continues

The chamois' remarkable state of preservation will allow researchers to improve conservation techniques for ice mummies, which can offer a wealth of scientific information. It is being stored at Eurac Research's conservation lab at 23 degrees Fahrenheit

To ensure it's preserved, the carcass is being stored in a refrigerated cell at 23 degrees Fahrenheit.

While they are encased in a glacier, these 'ice mummies' are perfectly preserved, but as the temperature drops their DNA begins to degrade quickly.

The chamois' remarkable state of preservation will allow researchers to improve conservation techniques for ice mummies, which can offer a wealth of scientific information.

At first Hermann Oberlechner (pictured) thought he was just looking at the recent remains of a wild animal

'This is the first time an animal mummy has been used in this way,' said Albert Zink, director of Eurac's Institute for Mummy Studies.

In 1991, the 5,300-year-old body of Ötzi, the famed 'Iceman,' was discovered by German tourists in Fineilspitze, about 110 miles away from Ahrntal.

The chamois is an agile herbivore with short, hooked horns that is still found in mountainous areas of Europe and Western Asia.

Typically less than four-and-half-feet long, they have rich brown fur that turns light grey in winter.

It's not clear if the remains found by Oberlechner are of a male or female.

While males are usually solitary, females and their young live in herds of up to 30.

Chamois were once hunted by lynxes and wolves, but their main predator today is humans.

The chamois isagile herbivore with short hooked horns still found in mountains of Europe and Western Asia. Its brown fur turns light gray in winter

They're no easy prey, though: Chamois can run faster than 30mph and leap 6.6 feet straight in the air.

It's not clear how this chamois died - it had been preserved for centuries and only recently became visible as the ice receded.

Experts say such finds will become increasingly common if climate change continues unabated.


Since his discovery on 19 December 1991 by German hikers, Ötzi (artist's impression) has provided window into early human history.

Since his discovery on 19 December 1991 by German hikers, Ötzi has provided window into early human history.

His mummified remains were uncovered in melting glacier in the mountainous border between Austria and Italy.

Analysis of the body has told us that he was alive during the Copper Age and died a grisly death.

Ötzi, who was 46 at the time of his death, had brown eyes, relatives in Sardinia, and was lactose intolerant.

He was also predisposed to heart disease.

In 2015, experts discovered a total of 61 tattoos on Ötzi's body using different wavelengths of light to pick them out on the mummy's darkened skin.

More recent research has focused on the DNA in the nuclei of Ötzi's cells, which could yield further insights into the famous ice mummy's life.

Scientists examining the contents of his stomach have also worked out that his final meal consisted of venison and ibex meat.

Archaeologists believe Ötzi, who was carrying a bow, a quiver of arrows and a copper axe, may have been a hunter or warrior killed in a skirmish with a rival tribe.

Researchers say he was about 5ft 2.5 inches (159cm) tall, 46 years old, arthritic and infested with whipworm - an intestinal parasite.

His perfectly preserved body is stored in his own specially designed cold storage chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy at a constant temperature of -6°C (21°F).

Visitors can view the mummy through a small window.

Alongside his remains is an Ötzi model created using 3D images of the corpse and forensic technology by two Dutch artists - Alfons and Adrie Kennis.

What Cowboys Can Teach Us About Cooking Testicles

The American cowboy is a dying breed. Customary grazing rights have been lost or rescinded. Homesteads have been sold to the wealthiest bidder. All the while, beef production has increasingly been shipped overseas. Yet, some traditions of the West refuse to die off.

Annually, ranchers across the U.S. throw what is known as a “branding.” Families join together to share and celebrate the work of baptizing new stock. In either a dusty or muddy mess, calves are lassoed, wrestled, and stuck with a hot iron signifying the brand of the ranch. This marks ownership of a given cow so they can be properly sorted, doctored, and eventually shipped off.

However, the pinnacle of the event is a rough castration, pushing any sane man to squirm. A “cutter” (different than a dark cutter) makes an initial incision around the scrotum exposing the two testicles. With some finesse, he or she begins pulling the testicles while evenly slicing at the resistant spermatic cords. It’s a short operation lasting less than five seconds, but haste doesn’t make it any easier to watch. The cutter is left holding two testicles and the calf is left weighing approximately 10 oz. lighter.

The purpose of castration is to create a more docile animal, reducing the likelihood of fighting and aggression towards humans. In a similar vein, castration prevents any unexpected pregnancies. Meat quality is also improved by lowering testosterone, creating a more tender and marbled product.

After the last brand sizzles, it’s common practice for the calf nuts to be thrown directly from the coffee can they were collected in onto the branding iron fire. Uncleaned and uncut, the hot fire makes a charred, chewy treat that signifies the work for the day is done.

Cowboys Use Everything Writer and poet Tyler Julian grew up working for Julian Land & Livestock, one of Wyoming’s largest sheep ranches. His family’s herd stretches for hundreds of miles across the desert and alpine landscapes. When the lambs hit a certain size, it’s time to dock their tails, snip their nuts, and brand them with paint to avoid ruining wool.

While “lamb fries” are far from being his favorite meal, Julian spoke of the plethora of protein sitting in buckets at the end of the docking day: “It’s indicative of the rancher mentality to use all of the product we can.”

Before the days of high-tech nut-cutters, sheepherders would use their teeth to remove testicles, according to Julian. Their grizzly attitude and aversion to waste is a quality all hunters should strive for.

Cultures that Castrate Testicles, like blood, are an ingredient enjoyed on a global scale. They can be found in markets from Europe to South America to Asia to be prepared in a variety of ways. Excluding cowboys and big game hunters, Americans generally turn their noses up at this offal, occasionally consuming it as a gag in a Western-themed bar, though the joke doesn’t land the same in other countries.

The vaqueros and gauchos of Spain and South and Central America call them "criadillas" or "huevos de toro," depending on the region. While frying them is a popular method of preparation, they are also known to boil, dice, and eat them in tacos.

Hungarians prepare a dish called Kakashere Pörkölt or Rooster Testicle Stew. In it, chicken balls are stewed in a medley of vegetables and served over a carbohydrate. Avian testicle size varies, though chickens seem to be “up there” in comparison. Remarkably, many flying birds express an increase in testicle size during their breeding season, and the organs tend to atrophy during non-breeding months.

Sheep and goat balls are preferred over bovine in the Middle East due to the animals’ nomadic partiality and ability to survive on sparse vegetation. Using exotic spices and traditional ingredients, Northern Africans occasionally substitute lamb testicles for meat in a dish called tajine.

How to Clean Testicles Following a branding, among a pile of crushed Coors cans is a zip-lock bag filled with testicles. While the grass, sticks, and dirt weaved into the vascular mess may appear inedible, it’s easily mended by a sharp knife and brine.

To make the brine, mix half a gallon of water with half a cup of salt until the salt is dissolved.

Start by cutting a slit in the outer skin and peeling back the protective layer surrounding the testicle. Pull the skin up toward the spermatic cord and cut at the junction. Throw away the spermatic and vascular cords and excess skin, keeping only the cleaned testicle. Soak these organs in the brine for at least one hour, preferably three.

This process can be time-consuming when processing hundreds of animals but takes only a few minutes if you are working with one game animal. After brining, the testicles can be frozen or cooked immediately after you pat them dry. Commonly, ranchers will freeze the loot for later use after a long day of wresting calves.

How to Cook Testicles Size is the major difference between young domestic animals and game testicles. Bull elk huevos rival the circumference of a lemon—not quite bite-sized. By the time fall hunting season rolls around, even a male calf elk will begin to develop a sizeable pair. Antelope and deer, while smaller than elk, will still be quite large. To alleviate this problem, hunters can cut them up into more manageable portions after adequate brining.

The most popular preparation in America is “Rocky Mountain Oysters.” Using your favorite frying method, slice the “oysters” thinly, batter, and fry them in hot oil until golden brown. Accompany them with a dab of horseradish.

The texture and taste of testicles are reminiscent of bacon, making them a great substitute in a hearty stew or pasta dish. Generational Wyoming rancher Casey Manning fondly recalls his mother making testicle stroganoff after the spring harvest.

Steven Rinella poaches game testicles in butter. This is a quick and approachable technique that allows hunters to make an offbeat appetizer before a crowd-pleasing entrée.

“If you can say it was something it wasn’t, and I don’t know what that would be, they would love it until they found out what you were giving them,” Rinella said of serving nuts to non-hunters.

A Thinking Man’s Cut The life of a cowboy or sheepherder has often been romanticized by the media, but it’s truly a lifestyle of hardship. And a hard truth is that much of the world, including cowboys, don’t have the privilege to overlook edible meat.

Those who find culture fascinating and those who care to use the entire animal should take pride in eating what others laugh at. Cooking up a pair of nuts, no matter the animal, is a way to pay homage to tougher people that branded the West as we know it.

Iceman Murder Mystery

A new forensic investigation of a 5,000-year-old mummy reconstructs his death and reveals an ancient way of life.

(This program is no longer available for online streaming.) He's been dead for more than 5,000 years and poked, prodded, and probed by scientists for the last 20. Yet í–tzi the Iceman, the famous mummified corpse pulled from a glacier in the Italian Alps, continues to keep many secrets. Now, through an autopsy like none other, scientists will attempt to unravel mysteries about this ancient mummy, revealing not only the details of í–tzi's death but also an entire way of life. How did people live during í–tzi's time, the Copper Age? What did they eat? What diseases did they cope with? Join NOVA as we defrost the ultimate time capsule—the 5,000-year-old man.

More Ways to Watch

NARRATOR: Frozen for more than 5,000 years, on a remote mountain pass, and now, preserved for the ages in a refrigerated tomb he is the Iceman, a frozen relic from the Stone Age, the oldest intact human body ever found. He's a messenger from the past, bearing secrets of how humans lived nearly a thousand years before the pyramids.

He is also a homicide, waiting to be solved.

Who was he? And who shot an arrow into his back?

PATRICK HUNT (Alpine Archaeologist): Whoever shot him went up and pulled the arrow shaft out of his back.

Why would you do that? Why would you take the arrow away?

NARRATOR: Was it warfare? Or murder?

Now, a rare and dangerous procedure leads to some startlingly fresh clues. A piece of bone, a copper ax and a last meal surprise the experts, as they come closer to understanding our ancient past and to solving the Iceman Murder Mystery, right now on this NOVA-National Geographic Special.

On a remote mountainside, high in the European Alps, a man makes his way through the thin mountain air. It is a desolate place, but he is not alone. On this day, 3,000 years before the birth of Christ, this man's life will end in a violent death. But his body will remain on the mountain for over 5,000 years.

September, 1991: Two hikers climbing in the Italian Alps wander off the trail. and stumble across a gruesome sight: the head and shoulders of a man, emerging from the ice.

At first, the pathologist responding to the scene assumes it's simply the remains of an unfortunate hiker, one of many lost to the Alps over the years. But this body looks different. It shows almost no signs of decomposition. Its skin and flesh appear to have been freeze-dried. Hands, feet, even eyeballs are still intact. The mountain air and ice had transformed this corpse into a mummy.

As the recovery continues, some unusual items begin popping up:

bits of leather and hand-made rope and a knife with a flint blade. This was no ordinary hiker.

Initial analysis of his gear suggests he was thousands of years old. The find causes a world-wide sensation. The press dubs him the "Iceman," or "í–tzi," after the í–tztal Mountains where he died.

Eventually, carbon dating confirms that í–tzi died 5,300 years ago. His were the oldest intact human remains ever recovered.

What can they tell us about our own history? And about how this man died up on that mountain?

PATRICK HUNT: For some reason, í–tzi makes a fateful journey up this ridge, along this valley all the way up. He goes from essentially about 1,000 feet to almost 11,000 feet. Why?

NARRATOR: At first, they suspect he was lost in a storm, but mounting evidence begins to suggest something else happened to the Iceman, something more violent.

Exactly what that was will likely be uncovered here, in Bolzano, Italy, just 30 miles from the spot where he died. A multi-million dollar museum celebrates what could be the world's oldest open case of homicide. í–tzi's mummified body is on display, carefully frozen in a custom-made crypt temperature:

20.3 degrees Fahrenheit, relative humidity: 98 percent.

Now, doctors in charge of the body are hoping to force a break in the ancient case by conducting a rare and dangerous procedure. They are letting the Iceman's body defrost.

Scientists flock to Bolzano to get their hands and instruments on the 5,000-year-old corpse. They will be following fresh leads about the Iceman's death, but also his life, at a key turning point in human civilization. They will have just nine hours to complete their investigations before the Iceman must be refrozen.

Pathologist Eduard Egarter Vigl is leading an operation that could be risky.

DR. EDUARD EGARTER VIGL (Head of Conservation for the Iceman) (Translation): One risk is that scientists who enter the room bring their bacteria and germs with them. Another risk is that we have no way of knowing if there are still living organisms in the mummy itself, and if these would be activated in the defrosting.

NARRATOR: If the body is harmed by the defrosting, the loss would be profound. Scholars depend on this one corpse to shed light on a crucial time in human history.

NEWS FOOTAGE (Translation): í–tzi is unique. He's from the very end of the Stone Age, a time when humans still used stone tools, but before they had mastered the art of smelting metal.

NEWS FOOTAGE (Translation): Struck down in mid-stride, he provides a glimpse of what life was like in those times, with some surprising twists.

PATRICK HUNT: One find—the man in the ice—opened up a whole new window on the ancient world that was never there before.

NARRATOR: Five thousand years ago, on the European continent, is a time before countries, before kings, even before the introduction of the wheel. In these alpine valleys, some people are living in small settlements, just beginning to grow crops like wheat and barley, and to raise goat, sheep and cattle. But others are nomadic hunters, still depending on wild game for survival.

Population is increasing, and so is competition between those hunters and early farmers.

PATRICK HUNT: We now know that with increasing population, there are more people contesting boundaries. This is the first time we're actually farming. So people can now fight over a plot of land and over the resources on it.

NARRATOR: This is 1,000 years before writing comes to this area, so í–tzi's gear, well-preserved by the icy glacier, provides a critical insight into prehistoric culture.

PATRICK HUNT: Everything was placed in that refrigerator, and the door was sealed. And we can open up that window in time, 5,300 years later, and everything was almost just as he left it.

NARRATOR: In fact, when they found the Iceman, he was still wearing one of his shoes. The artifacts are now in the Bolzano museum, where Patrick Hunt is joined by Annaluisa Pedrotti, of nearby Trento University, to carefully examine each item, searching for clues, not only about í–tzi's culture, but about his last day alive.

Why would he have been carrying these things with him at the time of his death? The shoe is one of the earliest examples of its kind and surprisingly complex.

PATRICK HUNT: You can just see here, at least three different kinds of material. You see grass, you see skin, and you see cord.

NARRATOR: It's unlikely a man from the Stone Age would wear shoes all the time, but if he knew he was going to cross the rocky slopes and glaciers of the Alps, shoes like this would be important to pack along.

The artifacts not only provide personal details about the man who carried them, they prove that Stone Age designs could be surprisingly sophisticated.

His backpack, with its wooden frame, seems almost modern. A leather pouch was possibly tied around his waist like a fanny pack. Chunks of tree fungus, thought to have medicinal powers, served as first aid kit. Maple leaves were used to carry hot embers for starting fires.

PATRICK HUNT: í–tzi's culture knew the use of every possible plant…

ANNALUISA PEDROTTI (Trento University): Yes.

PATRICK HUNT: …and stone and wood.

ANNALUISA PEDROTTI: Yes, they use the optimal material.

NARRATOR: But venturing into the mountains beyond his settlement could be dangerous. Wolves, wild boar and bears were common. Clashes between settlements and hunters were also possible, so í–tzi carried weapons.

Along with his knife, he had a bow and arrows. His quiver, the oldest ever found, contained carefully crafted wooden arrows, with flint arrowheads, chipped to a razor's edge and glued on with pitch made from the sap of a birch tree. The feathers on the shafts are also carefully attached—to stabilize the arrow in flight. But for some mysterious reason, the bow and arrows were not ready to use.

PATRICK HUNT: If you count the number of arrows here, easily over a dozen, most of the arrows are completely un-useable at this time. Why do we have so many arrows unfinished?

ANNALUISA PEDROTTI (Translation): This is a huge mystery. He was found with equipment that was not fully prepared.

NARRATOR: It's as if he were walking in the wilderness with an unloaded gun.

PATRICK HUNT: I would say that í–tzi is going to be in trouble. This is a serious flaw in his plan for survival.

NARRATOR: But he wasn't completely unarmed. He was carrying a weapon far advanced for his time, an ax made of copper.

PATRICK HUNT: The one object that continues to draw our attention, like a magnet, is that copper ax. It's so intriguing, because the technology required to make it is far beyond anything we've seen before.

NARRATOR: The Iceman's copper ax surprises archaeologists and forces a revision in the timeline of history. Before í–tzi, scholars didn't think alpine cultures had learned to smelt copper until about 2,000 B.C. But carbon-dating shows that the Iceman's ax is far older than that. This means his people already knew how to heat copper-rich rock up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, hot enough to extract the metal from the ore.

The discovery of the ax meant they were stepping out of the age of stone tools a thousand years before experts thought possible.

PATRICK HUNT: To be that far ahead so far back, this is simply incredible. This is one find that changes forever what we think about the past. The mind that can create that copper ax is practically, and for all purposes, the same mind that can create a computer, a circuit board. In other words, í–tzi is us.

NARRATOR: For years after the Iceman was discovered in 1991, scholars believed he had frozen to death in an alpine storm. But how could someone so in tune with his environment get caught out in a storm? Experts searched for other clues to explain his death. The body was CT-scanned and X-rayed, but all they saw was some broken bones, nothing fatal.

Then one day, 10 years after the Iceman's discovery, Dr. Paul Gostner, a Bolzano radiologist, was studying images from the Iceman, when he saw something that struck him as strange.

PAUL GOSTNER (Radiologist) (Translation): It's this little white spot here. But you could also confuse it for a rib. It's hard to see right away, isn't it?

NARRATOR: As Gostner began to look again at the original X-rays, he saw something that didn't add up.

So he had a CT scan image taken, and this time, there could be no doubt. There it was, lodged in the Iceman's back:

an arrowhead, made of stone.

PAUL GOSTNER (Translation): That was a great surprise since, up until that time, we didn't know that he was shot.

NARRATOR: But did the arrow kill the Iceman?

PATRICK HUNT: We know he was shot in the back from slightly down below, with an arrow that penetrated his scapula, his shoulder blade.

NARRATOR: The CT scans revealed that the arrowhead had, in fact, hit its mark.

PATRICK HUNT: The arrowhead penetrated a subclavial artery so that í–tzi bled to death very, very quickly.

NARRATOR: Who killed the Iceman? And why? The desire to solve this ancient homicide drives researchers back to the body one more time.

In the small operating room at the Bolzano museum, an international team of nearly two dozen researchers has gathered for the chance to examine the mummy. One of their first objectives will be to see if they can get a look at the fatal arrowhead.

Over two decades, scientists have learned a great deal about the Iceman. From his skeleton, they know he was five feet, two inches tall. Evidence of muscle development in his legs indicates a grueling routine of mountain hikes. The softness of his hands suggests he was not a farmer working the earth, but perhaps a hunter or a shepherd while study of his bones reveals that he was in his 40s the day he died. Identifying marks include over 50 tattoos of unknown significance.

Biological anthropologist Albert Zink is head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman. Together with Dr. Egarter Vigl, Zink is leading the procedure.

ALBERT ZINK (Director, European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC)-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman): We're all a little bit excited and also nervous, because we have a lot to do, and we also have to be sure that the Iceman doesn't have any damage due to this investigation.

NARRATOR: After a night spent outside his freezer, í–tzi is thawing nicely. As the mummy melts, he starts to sag. To prevent the body from completely falling apart, scientists place him in a special box. The box will allow them to move the body without damaging it and without altering the position of the limbs.

EDUARD EGARTER VIGL: You can see the mummy is well defrosted, the tissue is soft, so I think that we can start now with the investigation.

NARRATOR: Body parts that were frozen now move.

With just nine hours to conduct their investigations, each team must stick to a tight schedule.

In order to gain access to his left shoulder and the arrowhead, doctors move quickly to flip í–tzi face down. They hope the arrowhead may provide a clue to help solve one of the key mysteries of í–tzi's death:

was he killed in a skirmish with another settlement or some hunters fighting over territory? Or was the arrowhead, still in his back, put there by one of his own—perhaps a jealous rival from his clan?

One clue supporting this idea is his copper ax. That ax was so advanced some believe it marks í–tzi as a man of great importance in his community. Stone carvings found in the valley below where he died prominently feature the exact same kind of ax, suggesting that the weapon had great symbolic power.

PATRICK HUNT: And that makes us wonder more about í–tzi.

Who was he? Why did he have this? What kind of status did he have in the culture?

NARRATOR: Zink and Egarter Vigl wonder whether the arrowhead might be able to provide other clues.

ALBERT ZINK: So we really hoped to get close to the arrowhead, because the arrowhead is still inside the body, and we never really saw the arrowhead. And so we really hoped to get close, to maybe see what is going on there.

NARRATOR: Guided by an endoscope, they are now within half an inch of the actual arrowhead. But their route is blocked by tissue. With minutes ticking by, Egarter Vigl has a key decision to make. So far, they have used pre-existing access routes, created long before the presence of the arrowhead was known. If Egarter Vigl gives the okay to cut the Iceman in a new place, they will surely be able to gain access to the Stone Age arrowhead, but this creates a dilemma. It's Egarter Vigl's mission to learn all he can about the mummy, but it's his duty to keep it from harm.

The Iceman's body has become a kind of protected landscape, an archaeological site older than Stonehenge, with distinct areas marked out for exploration over the years. So the Iceman is not just an extremely cold case he's considered by the government to be a cultural treasure. That prevents Egarter Vigl from performing a true autopsy:

the kind of procedure that might radically alter a human time capsule that has remained intact for nearly 2,000,000 days.

Egarter Vigl and Zink have devoted much of their careers to studying this time traveler from the Stone Age. Now, they visit the remote pass where í–tzi met his fate.

EDUARD EGARTER VIGL: We see now, in front of us, this wall and, uh, the place in which the Iceman was found.

NARRATOR: í–tzi was found just 100 yards from the border between Italy and Austria. Five thousand years ago, he climbed to this ridge and was killed.

EDUARD EGARTER VIGL: Here we are, on the top of the mountain. And if you look down in the valley we see that, the distance is very, very long. There are more than 1,500 meters.

ALBERT ZINK: So we can see here, very well, that here was the glacier, and the glacier tends to move down. And normally a dead body would have been transported with the glacier, down, and destroyed completely.

NARRATOR: Most bodies lost in glaciers get buried in the river of ice and slowly glide down the mountain, along with tons of stone and other debris all grinding together. Alpine glaciers typically move about 100 feet per year. And after a few hundred years, most of the debris that gets caught up in them emerges at the bottom along the melting edge of the ice.

But, while the circumstances of í–tzi's death appear extremely unlucky, in archaeological terms, he couldn't have fallen in a better spot. The sun and wind dried his body out completely. Rocks on either side of him formed a small trench. This eventually filled in with 10 feet of snow and ice, preventing the Iceman's body from being swept into the deadly frozen current that flowed all around it. Fifty feet to the right or left and his body would have been ground to bits and lost forever. The mountain created and then protected the Iceman.

Back in the operating room, Egarter Vigl and Zink have to decide whether they are going to cut into the mummy, risking permanent damage.

Though investigators have known for a decade that í–tzi was killed, no one has ever seen the actual murder weapon. It is the last piece of unexamined evidence remaining. The team going after the arrowhead is tantalizingly close, but there is no way to get through the tissue without doing damage to the mummy.

Egarter Vigl decides to play it safe and move on without making a new incision.

PATRICK HUNT: We want to make sure that í–tzi is kept intact. Archaeologists have a tendency to alter the artifacts in a very destructive way. Once you excavate some sites, you can never go back, and you can't correct your mistakes, you can't do it over again.

NARRATOR: Though the arrowhead is critical, it's not only evidence in the case. The idea that í–tzi was killed in a skirmish with a rival settlement or band of hunters seems to be supported by microscopic signs that he was on the run in the days leading up to his violent death. He's carrying those tiny clues in his intestine.

PATRICK HUNT: Wherever you walk in late spring to early summer, there's going to be a lot of pollen in the air. The pollen is going to also be in his throat and on his food.

NARRATOR: At different elevations, different trees release their pollen. In this region, a tree called hornbeam dominates the lower elevations, while higher up the mountain, conifer forests cover the slopes.

In í–tzi's intestine, scientists find a layer of hornbeam pollen on top of that, a layer of conifer. It's a clear indication he's moving up the mountain.

PATRICK HUNT: Oddly enough, we believe he came back down again, because there's another layer of hornbeam pollen on top of the conifer pollen, which means he went up for some reason, came back down, and then went back up again, to his death.

What possesses a man to make such a journey, unless, for life-threatening reasons, he has to move?

NARRATOR: And there is more forensic evidence that the Iceman was being pursued in the days leading up to his death. On his right hand:

a deep cut slicing across the palm, possibly the result of hand-to-hand combat involving a knife.

PATRICK HUNT: So has he been in a battle? Has he already been fighting for his life? There's some evidence that would lead to that interpretation.

NARRATOR: But this war-like scenario has one hitch, and it has to do with what must have been the Iceman's most prized possession:

his ax. Why would the killers leave such a valuable object behind?

PATRICK HUNT: It makes sense if í–tzi is just a victim of a long distance kill-shot where someone would shoot him, leave the arrow, leave the ax and run away.

NARRATOR: But the shaft of the fatal arrow was never found, suggesting the attacker got close enough to pull it from the Iceman's back. Anyone getting that close to the body would have been within reach of í–tzi's copper ax.

PATRICK HUNT: Why was the ax left by his body? A huge mystery surely people knew its value.

NARRATOR: Perhaps the killer left the ax and took the arrow to avoid being discovered.

PATRICK HUNT: If you took his ax, youɽ be identified if you left your arrow shaft, you could be identified. So, to leave the ax and take the arrow says that someone is exercising great caution. They're thinking this through. Possibly, they don't want to be identified as í–tzi's killer.

NARRATOR: In the search for more clues about í–tzi's killer, it's time for a new group to have their turn with the body. This team will be looking for blood, specifically in í–tzi's brain.

On scans of í–tzi's skull, there are clear signs of fracture. And in pictures of the shrunken but still intact brain, some areas appear darker than others, which could be either blood or rot. If it's blood, it's proof he suffered a blunt force trauma to the head, just before dying.

ALBERT ZINK: If you could really find evidence for a bleeding, this would prove that this was an injury that happened during the process when he was dying. Bleeding just happens if you are still alive or if you are in the process of dying.

NARRATOR: Pincers, threaded through holes drilled in í–tzi's cranium years ago, snip samples of his brain.

When analyzed in the lab, these dark clumps of brain matter test positive for blood, confirming that í–tzi suffered a blow to the head before he died. But how?

Either he was finished off by his killer at close range, or he hit his head on a rock after being struck by the arrow. Ultimately, the forensic evidence is inconclusive, but the blood in the brain confirms that his last moments were traumatic.

All this analysis has taken time, and the body cannot remain defrosted much longer. With so much information about his death still inconclusive, scientists shift their focus to look for more clues about í–tzi's life.

The copper ax suggests he was figure of some importance. But was he a farmer? A hunter? A shepherd? Why was he alone? Was he perhaps on the run? Unfortunately, the one vital organ that could possibly answer all these questions has been missing for 20 years, but recently it has been found, by the same radiologist who discovered the arrowhead.

Over the years, Dr. Paul Gostner has seen thousands of images of the mummy's insides. But one day, while scanning the familiar images, an unexpected shape seemed to emerge.

PAUL GOSTNER (Translation): Here we have the esophagus, heart, lungs. See? And if you go further down, then you see an image that corresponds to that of an organ, a big, hollow organ.

NARRATOR: The "big, hollow organ" was something no one had noticed before:

the Iceman's stomach. How was it possible for everyone to miss something so basic as his stomach? The answer? Because it was not where it should have been. The stomach had moved.

When the Iceman was found, his body was draped, face down, over a rock. For 50 centuries the he hugged that rock, pressed under tons of ice. His body, squeezed between the rock below and the ice above, pancaked. While the organs inside his body were preserved intact, some of them were squeezed out of place.

PAUL GOSTNER (Translation): The stomach usually sits in the upper abdomen. When a person stands, then the stomach moves down a bit. When a person lies on his stomach, then the stomach pushes up. When a person lies on his stomach and has a ton of ice on top of him, then the stomach is pushed up even further. You don't see the stomach because it is too far up.

NARRATOR: The team assembled to explore the stomach first tries to reach it the usual way—passing an endoscope in between the Iceman's teeth, through his mouth, and down his throat—but the Iceman's body is too compressed.

TEAM MEMBER: We cannot pass. We cannot pass.

NARRATOR: So the team takes a different route, through an existing incision in the abdomen. And, here, they find the stomach, almost in his chest, just where Dr. Gostner predicted it would be.

ALBERT ZINK: I think this is stomach here.

NARRATOR: The stomach is not only there, it is full of food:

TEAM MEMBER: So much material from the stomach now.

NARRATOR: Initial analysis establishes the grain is a variety of wheat called einkorn. Einkorn was one of the first grains cultivated by human beings. The meat is ibex, a kind of wild goat still roaming the alps.

This last meal confirms the Iceman lived at a turning point in history. He and his people were just beginning to farm, but they still depended on meat from wild game. í–tzi himself may have been a hunter, connected to a small farming community. However he made his living, he was well fed.

After nine hours, í–tzi is resewn, holes plugged, flaps put back in place.

This one day has yielded 149 biological samples, enough material to keep scientists busy for years to come. The most important of all could be the vials that may contain the Iceman's D.N.A. Techniques of salvaging and sequencing D.N.A. have only recently improved enough to make it possible to get useful information from a mummy as old as í–tzi. But it will still be extremely difficult.

ALBERT ZINK: Testing the D.N.A. of the Iceman is difficult, on one hand, because he's a wet mummy, and wet mummies have a lot of humidity. This is very bad for the D.N.A. preservation. On the other hand, he was frozen for more than 5,000 years, and this turned out to be good, because the coldness preserves the D.N.A.

NARRATOR: If fragments of D.N.A.can be reconstructed, scientists have hopes they will be able to learn a great deal about characteristics like his eye color, medical history and genetic mutations. But first they have to get the D.N.A. They will follow a multi-step process, in order to see if it is even possible.

For Angela Graefen, a researcher at Albert Zink's lab, helping to piece together the Iceman's genetic profile is the chance of a lifetime.

ANGELA GRAEFEN (Researcher, Institute for Mummies and the Iceman): I've always been very interested in mummies, and when I got the chance to work on the Iceman, yeah, well, of course I…it's everybody's dream to work on such a, such a well-known sample as that.

NARRATOR: First, Graefen cuts the precious sample of í–tzi's bone into smaller pieces using a diamond-tipped saw. Tiny bone samples are placed into a sterile container with a steel ball. When the container is shaken at a high speed, the ball pulverizes the bone, breaking apart individual cells. Graefen adds various chemicals to make the D.N.A.easier to extract. Days later, what's left is a mixture of clear water and a golden-hued pure D.N.A.

The D.N.A.is sent from Bolzano, Italy, to a lab outside of Boston that specializes in reconstructing D.N.A.

TIMOTHY HARKINS (Director of Research and Development, Life Technologies): Ancient D.N.A.is very different from modern D.N.A.for several reasons. One of the bigger issues with ancient D.N.A.is contamination.

NARRATOR: Contamination occurs when the D.N.A.of an outside source, whether from a microbe or a human being, gets mixed up with the D.N.A.being studied.

Over the years, countless people have touched the mummy, leaving traces of their own D.N.A.behind. So Zink and Egarter Vigl took their samples from deep within í–tzi's bone, counting on the outer bone to provide a natural seal to protect the inner bone from contamination.

Because the procedure was so meticulous, the D.N.A.extracted is remarkably pure 97 percent is í–tzi's. But there is a mysterious three percent that clearly does not belong to him.

TIM HARKINS: We found an interesting surprise when we looked at this contamination a significant portion of the contamination was actually attributable to a microbe that causes Lyme disease.

NARRATOR: Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria, spread to humans by ticks. Untreated, its symptoms can include muscle weakness and serious swelling of the joints and arthritis. While Lyme disease is common today, the microbial D.N.A.contained within í–tzi's genes is proof that the disease is at least as old as the Stone Age. It is the oldest trace of Lyme disease ever identified.

And here is where í–tzi's ancient D.N.A.is nearly unique:

his D.N.A.has an actual body connected to it.

ANGELA GRAEFEN: This is different, because this is not just a bone we can't tell anything of, but this is a whole mummy. The whole body is preserved. So this is the first time we can actually compare a whole genome with a whole preserved body.

NARRATOR: X-rays reveal that the Iceman's left knee shows signs of swelling, consistent with someone suffering from arthritis or Lyme disease. And there are more revelations to come. After tediously reconstructing 98 percent of í–tzi's fragmented D.N.A., a clearer picture of who he was emerges.

On the chromosomes of the genes that determine eye color, there's a marker showing that í–tzi had brown eyes. Other markers reveal that those with the closest genetic match living today are not from the Alps, but from Sardinia. They also found that Lyme disease is not the only ailment í–tzi shares with 21st century humans.

TIM HARKINS: Another surprising thing that we find, in sequencing í–tzi's whole genome, is that he had a marker for heart disease.

ANGELA GRAEFEN: And of course, one would ask, isn't that a modern disease? Why should he have those? And we know a bit about his lifestyle. He wasn't overweight. He wasn't lazy. He didn't sit on his sofa all day. Um, so, where could he have got those from?

ALBERT ZINK: We still think that many of the diseases are very modern diseases, are civilization diseases that just occur maybe 100, 200 years ago. Now we see that these genetic modifications were already present much, much longer before.

NARRATOR: In fact, í–tzi's predisposition to heart disease is more than just a genetic curiosity. Dr. Paul Gostner's CT images reveal a sight familiar in today's cardiology labs.

PAUL GOSTNER (Translation): These two small clumps of calcium correspond to an atherosclerosis of the blood vessels.

NARRATOR: While cholesterol forms the blockage that people are most familiar with, these calcium deposits in í–tzi's artery are also a common sign of heart disease. Despite a lifetime of exercise and what surely must have been an organic diet, í–tzi's arteries look like those of a typical 40-year-old man in the 21st century. Perhaps that shouldn't be surprising, since, genetically, we are almost unchanged from í–tzi's kind.

EDUARD EGARTER VIGL: We are in a big mistake, because we believe that 5,000 years are a lot of time in the human being development. But 5,000 years are only 250 generations, and so we can't expect changing in our genome in so short time.

NARRATOR: But a few genes do adapt quickly to environmental and cultural factors. There's more D.N.A.evidence suggesting í–tzi lived in a time of great transition. í–tzi's genes indicate he was lactose intolerant he couldn't digest milk as an adult.

It's a condition many believe to be a result of an ailment or allergy. But they're wrong.

ANGELA GRAEFEN: Many people think lactose intolerance is an illness, but it's, you have to bear in mind, it's not, actually. It's the original state of humans. In the Stone Age, all humans were lactose intolerant.

NARRATOR: In the ancient past, all humans could digest milk as babies, but lost the ability as they grew older. That's exactly what happened to í–tzi. But around the time when í–tzi lived, a genetic mutation occurred that allowed some adults to digest milk. The mutation spread, its survival probably favored by the greater availability of domesticated cow's milk. Today, about 40 percent of adults worldwide are able to digest milk. But in the Alps, where í–tzi lived, 85 percent can digest dairy products.

D.N.A.analysis suggests í–tzi lived in a time of significant change, but it gives few clues as to how he died. That leaves some key questions:

what was he doing on the mountain and why was he killed?

The key evidence to emerge from the autopsy comes from his stomach. Analysis of the extracted material reveals it is a balanced meal of meat and grain. The most important clue is the amount of food itself. During the autopsy, they removed nearly a quarter pound of food another quarter pound was left behind.

Food remains in the human stomach for an average of about one hour. í–tzi ate this very large meal shortly before dying. This does not seem to be the behavior of a man on the run, being pursued up and down the Alps by enemies.

ALBERT ZINK: So, I think, now, this completely changes the picture. So, he really felt sure he was not fleeing from somebody, because otherwise, I cannot imagine that somebody is sitting down, having a big meal.

NARRATOR: So what does this tell us about how í–tzi died? Add up the evidence:

the missing arrow, the bleeding from his brain, a valuable copper ax left behind, a full stomach. Zink and Egarter Vigl think this final clue tips the balance. They now are convinced the Iceman was killed by someone he knew, perhaps a member of his own community, and he never saw it coming.

With the procedures complete, the samples taken, the visiting scientists gone, Egarter Vigl preps the body to be refrozen.

EDUARD EGARTER VIGL (Translation): During this period, I am alone with the mummy. Naturally, you let your mind wander, and science is no longer the focus, but you think about how this was actually a person who lived 5,000 years ago.

What is his face telling me? What is the position of his body telling me? Then I start thinking about mortality and, well, I feel a real connection with him.

NARRATOR: Now, for a while at least, the Iceman will be left in peace.

Of the estimated one-hundred-billion humans who have been born and passed from this earth, the Iceman has managed to survive the ravages of time, and he continues to help us understand what it means to be human.

Brando Quilici RECREATIONS DIRECTED BY Noel Dockstader EDITED BY Christine Jameson-Henry
Emmanuel Mairesse SERIES PRODUCER Anne Tarrant ASSOCIATE PRODUCERS Kate Culpepper
Rachel Watson CAMERA Colin Clarke
Brian Dowley
Alessandro Ojetti ASSISTANT CAMERA Daniel Mahlknecht SOUND RECORDISTS Daniel Mahlknecht
Federico Pucci
Alison Kelley
Kate Kennedy
Carl Reeverts
Rin Westcott ONLINE EDITOR Jim Sheehy COLORIST Ted Snavely SOUND DESIGN Chris Martin SOUND MIXER Brian Cunneff TRANSLATION VOICEOVERS Maricruz Castillo Merlo
David Murdock
Daniel Sheire RESEARCH Todd Georgelas
David Murdock ASSISTANT PRODUCER Justina Ragauskaite PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS Nicole Berlin
Claudia Vincenti INTERNS Will Crandall
Greg McKillop ARCHIVAL MATERIAL Absolutely Wild Visuals
Austrian Police
Corbis Motion
EURAC – Institute for Mummies and the Iceman
National Geographic Digital Motion
National Geographic Magazine
ORF/Austrian Broadcasting Co.
South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology
Thought Equity SPECIAL THANKS Archeopark Val Senales
EURAC - Institute for Mummies and the Iceman
Provincial College for Health-Care Professions
Dr. Eduard Egarter-Vigl
Dr. Paul Gostner
Dr. Marco Samadelli, South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology
Dr. Albert Zink
John Luker
Musikvergnuegen, Inc. ADDITIONAL NOVA THEME MUSIC Ray Loring
Rob Morsberger POST PRODUCTION ONLINE EDITOR Spencer Gentry CLOSED CAPTIONING The Caption Center PUBLICITY Eileen Campion
Janice Flood

A Production of NOVA and National Geographic Television

© 2011 NGHT, LLC and WGBH Educational Foundation

IMAGE: (iceman) Courtesy © South Tyrol Museum of Archeology/Foto Ochsenreiter

Participants Eduard Egarter Vigl, Paul Gostner, Timothy Harkins, Patrick Hunt, Annaluisa Pedrotti, Albert Zink

The History Blog

Oetzi the Iceman was discovered protruding from the ice of a glacier in the Oetzal Alps of the South Tyrol by hikers on September 19th, 1991, and in the years since has become the most studied mummy in the world. Kept in a climate controlled chamber with a viewing window for visitors at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, Oetzi is under constant monitoring by researchers who use the latest and greatest technology to discover new information about his life and death with as little interference with the remains and artifacts as possible.

The question of what he ate in the day or days before someone shot an arrow in his back severing his subclavian artery — he bled to death within minutes — was previously addressed by analysis of the fecal material found in his bowels. They contained the remains of red deer meat and some kind of cereal eaten at least four hours before his murder. In 2011, microbiologists at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano reexamined CT scans from 2005 and discovered something previous researchers had missed: Oetzi’s stomach. It had shifted north, which is why it was missed the first time, and it appeared to be full.

A sample of the stomach contents contained animal fibers which DNA analysis identified as Alpine ibex meat. This was his last meal, ingested 30 to 120 minutes before he died. The meat of the Alpine ibex was traditionally believed to have medicinal properties, and since Oetzi suffered from chronic joint pain, Lyme disease, periodontal disease, ulcers and a panoply of non-fatal wounds including knife cuts and blunt force trauma to his teeth received in the days and hours before his death, he had more than enough reasons to seek out healing foods.

New research has been able to narrow down how the Ibex meat was prepared.

/>Mummy specialist Albert Zink from the European Academy of Bolzano said he was able to analyse the nanostructure of meat fibres from a mountain goat found in Ötzi’s stomach – indicating that the meat was raw and had been dry-cured, and not cooked or grilled, which would have weakened the fibres.

He added that Ötzi did not have a proper hunting bow with him, and probably carried the dried meat with him from his home, as raw meat would have quickly gone bad.

Further analysis of his stomach contents showed that he had not eaten cheese or dairy products, just meat. “It seems probable that his last meal was very fatty, dried meat – perhaps a type of Stone Age Speck or bacon,” Zink said. As Ötzi had hiked down from the South Tyrolean side of the Alps, it’s likely his provisions came from there.

Speck is a famous local delicacy in the Tyrol. Cured with salt and spices and cold-smoked, Tyrolean Speck goes back to the 13th century. Little did we know that it was being made from wild mountain goats in the area 4,000 years before it was made from the hind legs of pigs. I’m not sure how fatty ibex meat can possibly be, though. These animals are accustomed to scrambling up and down the Alps, after all, not chilling in a wallow.

This entry was posted on Thursday, January 19th, 2017 at 11:53 PM and is filed under Ancient. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Most famous of mummies

Ötzi the Iceman was first discovered by hikers in the Ötztal Alps, along the border with Austria and Italy, in 1991. Since then, the astonishingly well preserved body has been scrutinized down to the tiniest detail, from his clothing, to his day job, to his last meal, to his likely cause of death and poor oral hygiene. A genetic analysis in 2013 even found some of the iceman's living relatives.

A 2008 study determined that some of the hair from Ötzi's animal-skin clothing came from domesticated animals. Yet despite decades' worth of extensive analysis of minute details, researchers had yet to determine exactly which animals contributed their skin to Ötzi's fashion sense.

To answer that question, O'Sullivan and his colleagues attempted to gather genetic data from Ötzi's outfit. This could be a tricky task, as the leather might have been treated by scraping, intense heating and exposure to fatty acids, the researchers wrote in the study, which was published today (Aug. 18) in the journal Scientific Reports. Later, researchers handling the garments might have contaminated the material, while the freeze-drying used to preserve it could have further damaged the genetic material, the researchers said.

Most famous of mummies

Ötzi the Iceman was first discovered by hikers in the Ötztal Alps, along the border with Austria and Italy, in 1991. Since then, the astonishingly well preserved body has been scrutinized down to the tiniest detail, from his clothing, to his day job, to his last meal, to his likely cause of death and poor oral hygiene. A genetic analysis in 2013 even found some of the iceman's living relatives.

A 2008 study determined that some of the hair from Ötzi's animal-skin clothing came from domesticated animals. Yet despite decades' worth of extensive analysis of minute details, researchers had yet to determine exactly which animals contributed their skin to Ötzi's fashion sense.

To answer that question, O'Sullivan and his colleagues attempted to gather genetic data from Ötzi's outfit. This could be a tricky task, as the leather might have been treated by scraping, intense heating and exposure to fatty acids, the researchers wrote in the study, which was published today (Aug. 18) in the journal Scientific Reports. Later, researchers handling the garments might have contaminated the material, while the freeze-drying used to preserve it could have further damaged the genetic material, the researchers said.

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“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”


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