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Latest News about Ötzi


New theory about Ötzi's death: was he placed on a burial platform? (8/28/2010)

A reanalysis of Ötzi's findspot, along with the distribution of the artifacts located there, has prompted archaeologist Alessandro Vanzetti (Sapienza University of Rome), Luca Bondioli (National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome) and three other scientists to conclude that the Iceman was killed at a lower altitude, carried up the mountain, and placed on a burial platform of stones. This platform was some 20 feet uphill from the place where Ötzi's body was found in 1991. Vanzetti and Bondioli believe that over the centuries, as the ice of the glacier occasionally thawed, his body was carried downhill in the melting water and came to rest where it was eventually found.

Although other scientists agree that the Iceman's body was repositioned slightly during warmer spells, they do not believe that he died elsewhere or that the stones formed a burial platform. According to biological anthropologist Albert Zink, head of the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, as reported on, "Ötzi probably died in the mountains alone and close to where he suffered a fatal injury.... The Iceman’s joints and spine display no dislocations that would have resulted from a downhill slide. Intact blood clots in his arrow wound would show damage if the body had been carted up the mountain...."

Bondioli disagrees. He believes that the artifacts found on the melting glacier would have been randomly distributed. Instead, when the artifacts were plotted on a map, they tended to cluster in two places: near the platform and near the findspot. As the authors conclude: "A careful study of all the located grave goods...points strongly towards the scene as one of a ceremonial burial, subsequently dispersed by thawing and gravity. The whole assemblage thus takes on another aspect – not a casual tragedy but a mortuary statement of its day."

For more information, see the Theories page.

The study was published in the the September 2010 issue of Antiquity.


New DNA study provides Ötzi's complete genome (8/2/2010)

After extracting DNA from a bone in Ötzi's pelvis, scientists have produced the complete genome of the Iceman. This will allow scientists to hunt for his modern-day relatives and study how certain diseases such as cancer and diabetes have mutated over the millennia.

This new study provides the most information to date about the iceman's DNA. Two earlier studies analyzed his mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) which provides information about his female ancestors. The new study--with its complete genome--opens the door to a wider population of matches. By the twentieth anniversary of the Iceman's discovery (September 19, 2011), scientists are hopeful that a few modern-day relatives might be found.

For more information, see the DNA page.


Provincial government of Bolzano finally agrees to pay €150,000 settlement to Erika Simon (6/15/2009)

At the end of September 2008, the lawyer representing Erika Simon (and Helmut Simon's estate) announced that the lawsuit between the Simons and the Bolzano provincial goverment was over. The lawyer stated that a six-figure (150,000 euros or approximately $208,000 USD) settlement of the lawsuit would be paid to Erika Simon in a public ceremony by the end of October 2008. That didn't happen as the provincial government of Bolzano apparently dragged its feet and resisted the settlement.

On June 15, 2009, however, government authorities announced that they would pay the €150,000 fee to Erika Simon. Whether this will be done in a public ceremony is not clear, however.

For more information, see the Lawsuit page.


Study reveals two attacks and a clear chronology of Ötzi's hand and back wounds (1/28/2009)

A recent study concludes that Ötzi was attacked at least twice during his final few days of life. He had an "older" wound (on his hand where there was a deep and severe gash) and two "newer" wounds (both on his back: the site where the arrow struck him and a bruised area nearby where he was struck by a blunt object). For more information, go to Scientific Studies.


New DNA study suggests that the Iceman apparently has no living relatives (10/30/2008)

A recent study in Current Biology (October 30, 2008) has found that the Iceman's mitochondrial DNA is apparently not related to anyone living today. This contradicts an earlier 1994 study (based on a much smaller sample of DNA) which suggested that Ötzi might have living descendants. Researchers are careful to point out that, if a larger number of Europeans are tested (providing a wider DNA sample), it is still possible a genetic link might be found between the Iceman and people today. For more information, see the Scientific Studies page.


Six-figure settlement to be paid to Helmut Simon's estate by the end of October (9/27/2008)

On September 27, 2008, the lawyer representing Helmut Simon's estate announced that a six-figure settlement of the lawsuit will be paid to Erika Simon in a public ceremony by the end of October 2008.


Lawsuit over Ötzi's finder fee may be finally settled (8/26/08)

On August 26, 2008, the provincial council of Bolzano apparently offered Erika Simon a settlement amount of €100,000 (approximately $150,000) to end the lawsuit that Helmut and Erika Simon filed to establish a finder's fee for discovering Ötzi.  For more information, see the Lawsuit page.


Further indication that Ötzi was a herdsman (8/21/08)

A study published in the journal, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, indicates that the Iceman may well have been a herdsman. Researchers used hair samples taken from the Iceman's coat, leggings and shoes, studying the proteins found there and comparing them to modern day animal hair samples. By this comparison process, they were able to determine that "Ötzi's coat and leggings were made from sheep's fur" while his upper shoes were cattle-made. The fact that he wore clothing made from domesticated animals suggests (at least to some scientists) that the iceman was a herdsman rather than a hunter (who might have clothing made from wild animals).


Was an asteroid responsible for the iceman's death? (6/5/08)

A new (somewhat far-fetched?) theory proposed by a UK space technology professor from Bristol University suggests that the Iceman's death may be connected to the landing of an asteroid in Austria around 3000 B.C. Professor Mark Hempsell theorized that Ötzi may have been sacrificed to placate the gods who were responsible for the asteroid's crash. The asteroid event is reportedly mentioned on an Assyrian tablet discovered in during the 19th century in northern Iraq.


Ötzi's mitochondrial DNA may trace descendents and ancestors (4/30/08)

A new DNA study is underway, conducted by Dr. Gianluca De Bellis of the CNR Institute of Biomedical Technology and Professor Franco Rollo of the University of Camerino, according to a press release issued by Roche Diagnostics.

Original DNA studies suggested that "Oetzis mitochondrial DNA does not resemble any sub-type found in any present existing ethnic group." However, a new process, called Genome Sequencer FLX from Roche Diagnostics, can purportedly "shed more light on the subject of Oetzis descendents, and establish his place in the genetic scenario of the present European race. Furthermore, 454 Sequencing data will enable researchers to trace Oetzis ancestors; and reconstruct an accurate phylogenetic family tree, obtaining an authentic global view of human evolution."  Results are expected by summer 2008. 

After this study is completed, "De Bellis plans to study Oetzis eating habits. Tissue samples that have been extracted from the mummys colon will enable an analysis of his intestinal flora. The reason for this investigation will be to compare the genes between the embryonic digestive tube bacteria of Neolithic man with those of the present day modern man...."


New cause of Ötzi's death (8/29/07)

Two months after Swiss researchers claimed to have found the the exact cause of the iceman's death, another team of scientists begs to disagree. Yes, they say, the Iceman was seriously wounded by an arrow, which caused him to lose consciousness, but a subsequent head wound was ultimately responsible for his death.

The scientists (Andreas Lippert, a prehistory professor at the University of Vienna, Paul Gostner and Patrizia Pernter, radiologists at the Bolzano regional hospital, and Eduard Egarter Vigl, a pathologist at the hospital) reached their conclusion by studying the Iceman's position. 

They propose two possible scenarios:

(1) They believe that he may have hit his head after losing consciousness and died. 

(2) The unconscious Iceman was hit in the head by his attacker, which killed him.

In either case, after the Iceman was dead, his attacker turned the body over and removed the arrow shaft (the design of which might have identified him).

Results of the analysis were published in Germania.


Cause of Ötzi's death is finally official (6/6/07)

Swiss researchers have pinpointed the exact cause of the iceman's death. Although researchers knew that Ötzi had been injured by an arrow, they were never quite sure whether he froze to death before the injury could kill him or how long he survived. 

By using a multi-slice CT-scan at the University of Zurich, researchers led by Frank Rühli, were able to piece together views of the iceman's shoulder showing the wound. By doing this, they established that "the arrow had torn a hole in an artery beneath his left collarbone, leading to a massive loss of blood. That, in turn, caused Ötzi to go into shock and suffer a heart attack, according to the article published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science. Even today, the chances of surviving such an injury long enough to receive hospital treatment are only 40 percent...." 

Rühli said that the "arrowhead actually hit an artery and we see the lesion of the artery. We also see in these CT images a large hematoma, which means he must have had huge bleeding into the thorax cavity." His death, the scientists stated, would have been rather quick under these circumstances. 

Of course, no one will ever know what events led up to the injury. More research continues, however.

These results can be found in the current issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science and will be published in the U.S. and German editions of National Geographic next month.


Yes, Brad Pitt has an Ötzi tattoo (5/18/07)

Gossip sites confirm (with photo) that Brad Pitt has placed a tattoo of the Iceman's body on his left inner forearm.


Ötzi lawsuit rages on (9/27/06) 

Just when it appeared that the lawsuit over the finder's fee for the Iceman was resolved (see 6/5/06 below), the government of the Bolzano province (where Ötzi now resides) has appealed a lower court decision. The case now goes to the Cassation Court, Italy's highest court.

Some accounts indicate that the Simons originally asked a finder's fee of about $300,000, but this fee apparently was reduced after the June €150,000 (about $195,000). The provincial government believes that the high expenses it has incurred to establish a museum and maintain the Iceman's preservation should be considered when determining the finder's fee; therefore, a reduced fee is justified. According to one official, "One has to consider that we have borne all the expense of exploiting the find." Of course, Mrs. Simon sees things differently. 

If Ötzi only knew about this legal battle, what would he think? (News story at


Study provides evidence that Ötzi was probably killed by multiple assailants near findspot (9/14/06) 

For a long time, scientists believed that the Iceman was a hunter who was killed by another hunter's arrow in a mountain valley and managed to climb up the mountain where he died. The primary evidence for this theory was the type of plant material found in his stomach which suggested that he had been in a specific mountain valley. However, a recent CAT-scan revealed that his arrow wound involved a major artery. According to Bolzano Hospital pathologist Eduard Egarter Vigl (who has studied the Iceman over the years), this indicates that he pretty much died where the wound took place, since he would not have been able to take even one step before the enormous loss of blood from such a wound killed him. (News story at 


Study 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 look 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 


Ötzi lawsuit not over (6/5/06)

The finder's fee lawsuit between Erika Simon (and her deceased husband Helmut) and the government of the Bolzano province (where the Iceman is now located) seems to be over. An appeals court has ruled that the Simons did indeed discover the Iceman and are therefore entitled to a finder's fee. What's more, the provincial government must also pay the Simons' legal fees. Italian law indicates that the finder's fee for a discovery is 25 percent of the item's value. The problem is: how does anyone place a value on the mummified remains of the Iceman?

Government officials insist they will pay no more than €50,000 (about $65,000). The Simons have argued that the Iceman has made a considerable amount of money for the provincial government both in admissions fees at the museum and in money brought in through tourism; they believe that they are entitled to considerably more money. (News story at


Was the Iceman's death carved on an ancient stone stele? (3/22/06)

LRecording of Ötzi's Death?orenzo Dal Ri, director of the archaeological office of the Bolzano province, has reported that an ancient stone stele used to build a church altar contains carvings that seem to record the Iceman's death. Dal Ri told a reporter that one part of the carved stele "shows an archer ready to shoot an arrow on an unarmed man's back...[which bears] an impressive resemblance with Ötzi's death. It is indeed a fascinating hypothesis, though we can't say for sure this is the picture of Ötzi's murder." 

He plans to study the stele further. Although it comes from Ötzi's time period (the Copper Age), it must be more precisely dated. Even if further study does not link the stele to the Iceman's death, the stone is still important as an early representation of murder. 


SOURCES: (3/22/06, 6/5/06); (9/5/06, 9/14/06, 9/27/06)



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