The most famous and oldest (approximately 5,300 years ago) human glacier
mummy of all, the Iceman was discovered at the melting edge of the
Niederjoch Glacier along the border of Italy and Austria. Unlike most
other glacier mummies, his body was found intact, thanks to his
protected position in a small gully beneath the glacier. The glacier
moved above the Iceman, allowing him to stay securely in place.
children. Made between 1438 to 1532 during the time of the Inca
empire, some children sacrificed on
the mountain tops became natural mummies, because of the freezing temperatures and the
dry, windy mountain air. One of the most famous of the Inca sacrifices is Juanita
the Ice Maiden.
Dan Ts’ěnchí. Although scientists originally thought that
this man found in a melting Canadian glacier was quite old, recent test
results indicate that he lived between 1670 and
1850. Still his discovery has provided a great deal of information about
the life and times of the native peoples of northwestern North America.
He is also a source of great pride to the people of the First Nations.
4. Lost people from the
Alps. The soldier from the
Theodul Glacier and the dairy maid from the Porchabella Glacier are but
two of the many unfortunate people whose remains have been found at the
edge of glaciers melting in Europe. You can read about them in Bodies
from the Ice: Melting Glaciers and the Recovery of the Past.
interesting discovery in the Alps might be Norbert
In 1929, the partial body of a man was found on the Gradetzkees Glacier
of Austria. His abdomen was fairly well preserved, but his head and the
lower part of his right leg were missing. Near him were some bits of
clothing, a knife, a pocket watch, a rusted rifle, and the remnants of
pear wood binoculars. His remains and the artifacts were discovered at
the snout of the glacier, some 30 feet below a crevasse.
Authorities began to piece together information about the corpse.
His knife was monogrammed with the letter M. His firearm, a single-shot
muzzle-loading rifle with an octagon barrel, was quite unique with its
flower-carved walnut stock. Experts told police inspectors that this
type of rifle was made between 1830 and 1850 and was most likely the gun
of a poacher (that is, an illegal hunter).
When the investigation was over, the police concluded that the
body was that of Norbert Mattersberger, who was born in 1796 and who
disappeared in 1839 after going out to hunt.
The death of a
hunter—even one who may have been hunting illegally—hiking across an
alpine glacier is not completely unexpected. But the case took another
turn, when a local newspaper reported a story that had happened some 30
years earlier. Near death, in about the year 1899, a man confessed that
he had killed another hunter by pushing him over a cliff. Then he
disposed of the body by throwing it into a crevasse. He did not give the
name of the other hunter…but some wonder if it might not have been
remains from Mont Blanc (France). Two plane crashes
into the Les Bossons Glacier on Mount Blanc, one in 1950 and the other
in 1966, attracted a great deal of attention, especially when the
artifacts and bodies began to be recovered many years later.
from the crash of the Malabar Princess, which killed 48 people in 1950,
reappeared almost 30 years later, when a sack of mail in 1978 and part
of the landing gear in 1986 were found. In 1992, the partial remains of
the 117 passengers and crew killed in the 1966 crash of the Kanchenjunga
accident began to emerge. A mountain guide at Chamonix reported that he
“found a perfectly-preserved hand, a torso, some log books, saris, and
a spoon. The skin of the blackened human remains was like parchment,
having been stripped of all its fat by the glacier water." No
complete body was ever recovered from that accident, except that of a
small monkey, one of 200 intended for a research lab and carried in the
Leo M. Mustonen and Ernest G. Munn,
World War II air crash victims recovered from the Mendel Glacier
(California). Two remaining bodies from the
same crash may be discovered in the near future, as the glacier
continues to melt.
from the 1948 crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 4422.
The crash involving the DC-4 took place on
March 12, 1948, when the plane disappeared. In 1999, the two pilots located
the wreckage on Mount Sandford, inside the Wrangell--St. Elias National
Park and Preserve. Because there are human remains involved (a mummified
hand and arm), the exact location was not announced and the area was closed for fear that treasure hunters will desecrate the remains
in their attempt to make money--legend has it that the plane carried a
cargo of gold besides its six crew members and 24 passengers.
(Associated Press, 7/30/99)
Crash remains of the Star Dust, atop Mt.
group of mountaineers came across the wreckage of the Star Dust, an Avro
Lancastrian plane and three frozen (and therefore mummified) passengers
recently atop Mt. Tupungato, near the Argentine-Chile border.
On August 24, 1947, the plane, part of the
British South American Airways fleet, had been on a flight between Buenos
Aires and Santiago when it crashed on the 8,000 foot mountain. Eleven
people were listed on the flight manifest (five crew members and six
In order to determine the identity of the
recovered victims, an Argentine judge requested DNA tests.
to initial accounts, a diplomat carrying secret documents may have been
one of the doomed passengers. Some believe that he possessed documents
from the King of England. If this is true, they speculate that the plane
may have been sabotaged. However, an investigation by the Argentine
Air Force revealed that the plane crash was caused by human error, brought
about when the plane entered a jet stream and veered off course.
To complete the DNA
testing, living relatives of all eleven victims had to be located so that
a sample could be taken (by swabbing the inside of the mouth). This has
been accomplished with one exception: the relatives of Iris Evans, a
flight attendant (or "air hostess," as she would have been
called in 1947) have not been found. A public appeal was made to track
A BBC-TV documentary on the
subject aired in the UK during September 2000. (BBC
News, 1/25/00, 1/27/00, 7/7/00, 8/29/00)
WWII Fliers Recovered from Iceland Glacier. The
mummified remains of four RAF crew members, whose Fairey Battle bomber
crashed into an Iceland mountain in May 1941, have been recovered.
The plane had disappeared without a trace
over 59 years ago, but recent melting of the glacier revealed bits of
wreckage in 1999. An multi-national expedition battered by the cold
reached the remote site in 2000.
Besides the well-preserved human remains,
team members found cans of corned beef, boot polish, a toothbrush, and a
flying jacket. Perhaps the most touching discovery was a watch given to
Flying Officer Arthur Round, one of the crew members, by his father two
days after his 19th birthday. Its inscription read, "A. Round from
The three other crew members were Reginald
Hopkins, Keith Garrett, and Pilot Officer Henry Talbot. A memorial service
was held in Iceland on August 27, 2000, and burial took place in
the Fossfogur Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in Reykjavik. (Associated
And...perhaps someone from the Switzerland's
Schnidejoch Glacier? Since the Summer of 2003, when a couple
found a birch bark arrow quiver that dated to 3000 BC, more and more
discoveries have been made in the same area...by archaologists who kept
quiet about the original quiver find to stop potential treasure hunters
from looting the site. Albert Hafner, chief archaeologist with the
canton of Berne (where the site is located), has said that, We now have
the complete bow equipment, quiver and arrows, and we have,
surprisingly, a lot of organic material like leather, parts of shoes and
a trouser leg, that we wouldn't normally find." A BBC report
indicates that some of the items (leather and a piece of a wooden
bowl) are even older than Ötzi
"and date from 4500 BC, making them the oldest objects ever found
in the Alps. And from later periods, a Bronze Age pin has been
discovered, as well as Roman coins and a fibula, and items dating from
the early Middle Ages." What's missing is another Ötzi,
but that may be a matter of time as more ice melts on the Schnidejoch.
according to an AFP report, many of the 300 items belonged to the same
person (goat leather pants, leather shoes and the quiver and arrows).
Some type of accident occurred, and the person was lost. Will he (or
part of him) be found as the glacier melts? For more info, here's a link
to the BBC article and the