Ötzi the Iceman was
found near Hauslabjoch in the Ötzal Alps on September 19, 1991, by Helmut and Erika
vacationing German hikers.
was walking a bit ahead of his wife, when he spotted something. He thought
it was some trash left by a careless hiker. But when he and his wife
looked closer, they realized that they were looking at the body of a
lying face down in some melting ice.
their discovery, they assumed
that they had found the mummified remains of an unfortunate mountain
climber. Since it can be difficult to recover the body of a fallen
climber, especially if a fresh snowfall covers the area, many people who
have died in the mountains are often left there. Their body freezes
and does not deteriorate; many such mummies have been recovered.
Simon wanted to take a photo, but his wife was appalled at the thought of
taking a photo of a dead person. Still, Helmut managed to take one photo of the body
(he had only two left photos on his roll of film). Then he got closer in
order to inspect the body, which was in kind of gully. He saw an object or two around the body, but they
meant nothing to him.
Simons weren't sure that they would report the body. They wondered if
their vacation would be interrupted by completing police reports and other
official requirements when a body is discovered.
after hike down the mountain for an hour, they stopped at a rustic lodge
for something to drink. Only then did they decide to report their find to Markus Pirpamer, the caretaker of
the lodge. In turn, he called the proper authorities
who said they would recover the body the following day. The Simons,
believing that they had discovered only a modern corpse, could not wait
and continued down the mountain, heading for their hotel. Before they left, they
provided Pirpamer with directions to the findspot.
the authorities arrived, they were well aware that the glacier had been
melting. Three weeks earlier, the bodies of a man and woman who had gone
hiking in 1934 and never returned had been discovered. For
this reason, they, like the Simons, assumed that the person had died in a
explains why the Iceman's "rescuers" made quite a few careless
mistakes: they weren't trying to preserve and protect the body, they were
just trying to free it from the ice. At first, using a stick that they
found nearby (later discovered to be his bow), they attempted to pry him free. They also tried to pull him
from the ice by grabbing onto what was left of his clothing. In the
process, they shredded it. One policeman was so anxious to free the mummy
that he took a small jackhammer to the ice, accidentally drilling a hole in the
Iceman's hip. And Pirpamer used an ice pick to finally extract the Iceman.
(Brenda Fowler gives a thorough account of all the mistakes made in Iceman,
he was finally freed, the Iceman was forced into a coffin, which caused
his left arm to break. Then, when photographers were given time to take
pictures of the mummy in a nearby morgue, a fungus began to spread across
the Iceman's skin.
the end, Italian and Austrian authorities were shocked to discover that,
rather than being a modern-day mountain climber, the man had died about
3000 B.C. He quickly came to be known as the Iceman, one of the oldest and
best preserved human mummies ever found.
Of course, other people
have since come forward to claim that they discovered the Icement
Slovenian actress Magdalena Mohar
Jarc was one. After she saw the body, she went to find someone to take a photo of the discovery. The
people she reportedly found to take the photo were the Simons who stole the
discovery from her.
woman named Sandra Nemeth was another. She believed that she found the Iceman before
the Simons and that she got into an argument with the couple about the
discovery. Then she spit on Ötzi to make sure that her DNA would be found on
the body, thus verifying her claim. No trace of her DNA was ever discovered,
Italian courts have concluded that
the Simons were the Iceman's true discoverers. To read more about their fight
for recognition (and a little money), read about their lawsuit.