Skip to comments.Was Ancient Alpine "Iceman" Killed in Battle?
Posted on 11/02/2003 8:24:38 PM PST by SteveH
Was Ancient Alpine "Iceman" Killed in Battle?
for National Geographic News
October 30, 2003
In 1991, two Germans hiking in the Alps of northern Italy discovered the 5,200-year-old remains of a Copper Age man frozen in a glacier. The well-preserved corpse, dubbed "Ötzi the Iceman," was found with tools, arrows, and a knife. Since then, scientists have speculated about how the 46-year-old male died, offering scenarios from hypothermia to ritual sacrifice.
Now a team of researchers has added another theory to the mix, suggesting that the Iceman died in battle.
The "Iceman" made a valiant effort to fight off attackers but was outnumbered and killed, a recent study suggests. Scientists used DNA analysis to recreate the circumstances of the man's death in the Alps of northern Italy.
Photograph copyright South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology
Thomas Loy, an archaeologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, led the team that studied DNA samples gathered from the Iceman's weapons, tools, and clothing. Loy and his colleagues found that the samples contained blood from four individuals.
Blood on an arrow found with the Iceman came from two individuals. Blood on a knife blade carried by the Iceman belonged to a third individual. Loy also discovered blood from a fourth individual on the left side of the Iceman's goatskin coat. Loy says this suggests that the Iceman may have had an injured companion that he helped carry for some distance.
Using the information gathered from their DNA analysis together with forensic data on the wounds found on the Iceman's body, the researchers reconstructed Ötzi's final moments.
Loy believes that the Iceman died in a boundary dispute with several individuals and that the Copper Age male received his first wound as early as 48 hours before his death.
According to Loy, the Iceman shot two different people with his arrow, each time managing to retrieve the arrow from his victim. The Iceman's success, however, was short-lived. He missed his last target, shattering his arrowshaft.
"He was attempting, before he died, to take apart the arrowhead from the broken arrowshaft and make one useable arrow," Loy wrote via e-mail.
The Iceman died before he could fix his weapon. He was shot in the back with an arrow and was also badly cut on one hand. Loy's reconstruction suggests the Iceman stacked his gear carefully on a nearby ledge, slumped over a rock, and died.
An Unlikely Scenario?
Other scientists remain unconvinced by this new theory. Johan Reinhard, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and expert on mummies and ritual sacrifice, believes that Loy's theory may have "too many coincidences," he said.
"I find it an unlikely scenario," Reinhard said. He asserts that a ritual death such as human sacrifice "better explains known facts."
Reinhard cites the quantity, quality, and placement of artifacts that the Iceman had with him as evidence that he could not have been fleeing a battle. The Iceman was found with well-made leather clothing, a finely-crafted copper axe, arrows, and a knife, among other items.
Additionally, the Iceman's grass-filled shoes made travel through the snow a slow process, according to Reinhard, who said he is also skeptical of the location of the bodythe Iceman was found on the highest point of a pass.
Reinhard does believe that a fight could have been possible, but within the context of a ritual. "We know that people have been lured into places and killed. As an example, the Celts reportedly performed human sacrifice by shooting people in the back," he said.
Despite his skepticism, Reinhard said that new theories are important in studying the Iceman.
But, as James Dickson, an expert in botanical archaeology and paleo-ecology at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, who studies the Iceman, said: "Our knowledge of the events immediately before [the Iceman's] death is poor."
Loy acknowledges the need for continued research. "There's more to puzzle out here
more to discover about both his life and death," he wrote.
Call it the world's oldest whodunnit. Scientists say the 5,300-year-old corpse known as "Otzi" was murdered in a bloody Stone Age fight.
There was plenty of evidence of foul play on Otzi's 5,300 naturally mummified body. Climbers who found Otzi in 1991 reported the bearskin-clad man clutched a knife in his right hand. In 2001, a radiologist discovered an arrowhead in Otzi's shoulder.
Now further research has turned up a gash on Otzi's knife hand, a cut on his left hand, and bruises from a beating on his body. Forensic analysis of Otzi's accoutrements has turned up DNA from at least four individuals. Blood on the back of his cloak belonged to one person, blood from two more people was found on the one arrow in his quiver, and blood from a fourth coated his knife blade.
Otzi may have carried a bleeding comrade over his shoulder, reused the arrow to kill or wound two enemies, and slashed another with the knife. The arrowhead in his shoulder suggests he had tried to pull the projectile out but broke the shaft in the attempt.
Sounds like a U.N. matter to me.
Which he was guarding.
I had no idea Val Kilmer was so old.
They only found one arrow. And it was in a non fatal area.
As for the grass in the shoes: This would be similar to the US Soldiers in the battle of the Bulge putting newspapers in their shoes.
No one has bothered to say the obvious: He was probably shot by a jealous husband who was chasing him...which is why he was shot in the back, and had eaten shortly before dying, and was trying to get away....
As for "celtic ritual killing", this is questionable. Were the Celts in this area back then? And the ritual killings were done as a ritual: This guy was fully clothed in normal street clothes one would find in a traveler, found as if he was fleeing, and had normal food in his stomach...
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