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NEWS
latest news
news archive
why he's special
Iceman Q&A
DISCOVERY
his discovery
his findspot
the lawsuit
ABOUT ÖTZI
who he was
his health
his three faces NEW
his occupation
his equipment
his clothing
his final route
his last meals
STUDIES, THEORIES, MYTHS
theories about his death
scientific studies
his DNA 
the stele
the curse of Ötzi?
ÖTZI'S NEW HOME
his icy chamber
visiting the museum
visiting Bolzano
MORE TO DO
books and periodicals
B. Fowler interview
photos and movies
Ötzi art project
Ötzi word search
AND DON'T FORGET
Kwäday Dan Ts’ìnchí
other glacier mummies
 
 
 

Who He Was

 

Who was Ötzi the Iceman?  

No, this isn't his real head. This is a reconstruction of the Iceman's face as exhibited at San Diego's Museum of Man

Ötzi was named after the Ötzal Alps, the region in which his body was discovered. He is also known as the Similaun Man, the Man from Hauslabjoch, and even Frozen Fritz.

His real name, of course, will always remain a mystery. But scientists have been able to determine some information about his identity, including his age. Bone studies (from nine different samples) suggest that, when he died, the Iceman was 45.7 years of age (give or take 5 years).

Other information about him suggests:

... that Ötzi was a shepherd (9/5/06).

From the time of his discovery in 1991, scientists and others have speculated that the Iceman was a hunter. But a recent study published in the Journal of Human Evolution ("Body size, body proportions, and mobility in the Tyrolean ' Iceman,' " volume 51, issue 1, July 2006) suggests that he may have been a shepherd instead. 

By studying Ötzi's leg bones, primarily his tibia, or shin bone, and comparing it to the shin bones of 139 other prehistoric men who lived from the Mesolithic age (Middle Stone Age) and from the Neolithic age (Late Stone Age), scientists led by Christopher Ruff from John Hopkins University hoped to answer the question: how did the Iceman's measure up? 

The answer: "In many respects, his tibia more closely resembles those of European Mesolithic rather than Neolithic males, which may reflect a more mobile lifestyle than was characteristic of most Neolithic males, perhaps related to a pastoral subsistence strategy" (that is, work as a shepherd). According to Dr. Ruff, The Iceman "evidently went for long walks over extremely hilly terrain" and "was much more active than his contemporaries" as reflected by the appearance of his tibia. 

Ruff continued, "He was more like the people who came before" (that is the people from the Mesolithic Age) and suggests that his occupation was "probably that of a high-altitude shepherd." (News story at ansa.it.) 

 

... that Ötzi's birthplace was in an area near the present day Italian village of Feldthurns (10/31/03).

An article entitled "Iceman's Origins and Wanderings," published in Science, presents the results of a scientific study in which the minerals found in Ötzi's teeth, bones, and intestines were compared to those found in soil and water samples taken from a wide area of the Tyrolean Alps. 

The findings suggest that Ötzi was most likely born in Italian village of Feldthurns (also called Velturno; it is north of present-day Bolzano on the A22). However, the results also indicate that he lived most of his life in other northern valleys. The scientists deduced this by comparing the minerals in his tooth enamel with those in his bones. They also analyzed bits of mica found in his intestines (most likely these bits came from stones containing mica that were used to grind grain that the Iceman ate). 

The overall picture that emerged was that the Iceman didn't roam more than about 37 miles (or 60 kilometers) from his birthplace.

Dr. Wolfgang Müller, the lead author of the study, from the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University in Canberra explained: "From the enamel it is possible to reconstruct the composition of the water Ötzi drank and get clues about the earth where his food was grown. As a result we now know Ötzi came from near to where he was found from the Eisack Valley [near Feldthurns]. He spent his childhood there. And he spent his adulthood in Lower Vinschgau [also in the Italian Tyrol]."

Dr. Müller also concluded that Ötzi was not a world traveler (he hadn't hiked all over Europe) and hadn't spent extensive time at higher elevations. 

According to the BBC News Online, Dr. Alexander Halliday of the Department of Earth Sciences at RTH Zurich told BBC News Online: "This is the first time that anyone has made a comprehensive study of the migration of a human in the past. It looks like he lived much of his life in a different valley from where he was born."

This means that the Iceman was an early "pre-Italian" to anyone keeping score.

 

SOURCES: Science (10/31/03); ansa.it (9/5/06)

 

 

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