Skip to comments.Secrets Of A Stone Age Rambo (Otzi, The Iceman)
Posted on 05/05/2003 5:29:12 PM PDT by blam
Secrets of a Stone Age Rambo
They thought they had found the corpse of an ancient shepherd, but the iceman from 5,300 years ago now turns out to have been a hi-tech warrior
Sunday May 4, 2003
The Observer (UK)
When hikers spotted a corpse poking from the Schnalstal glacier in the Austrian-Italian Alps in 1991, they thought they had found the body of a lost climber. Then researchers took a closer look and announced the iceman was an ancient shepherd, a primitive farm worker who had got lost in the mountains and had died of hypothermia.
Yet now, after 12 years of careful research, scientists have discovered the truth about Otzi the Iceman: that he was the Stone Age equivalent of a hi-tech trooper kitted with complex weapons and survival gear.
This is the startling picture revealed by scientists who have completed the full reconstruction of the oldest, best-preserved human body known to science. It shows that Otzi - named after the Otzal Alps, where his body was discovered - carried sophisticated armoury and wore warm, protective clothing that would have rivalled the fleeces and waterproof anoraks worn by mountaineers and soldiers today.
Otzi's equipment included a flint dagger, a longbow of yew, plants with powerful pharmaceutical properties, three layers of clothing made of deer and goat hides, a bearskin hat, a framed backpack, a copper axe, dried fruit and other foods wrapped in moss for protection and a fire-making kit that included flints and ores for making sparks.
In addition, the iceman had tattoo marks on his back that suggest he had undergone acupuncture while food experts concluded that his last meal was made up of goat meat and bread cooked in a charcoal oven.
'Otzi was extremely well equipped, each object fashioned from the material best suited to its purpose,' state the Otzi scientists in the latest issue of Scientific American. 'The items are testament to how intimately his people knew the rocks, fungi, plants and animals in their immediate surroundings.'
Far from being a poor shepherd who had got lost and wandered to a lonely, icy death, Otzi was well-armed and well-protected when he died. Some scientists believe he may have been murdered - a theory backed by Italian scientists' announcement, in 2001, that they had discovered an arrowhead in Otzi's back, just under his left shoulder. This has still to be verified by other researchers.
His body was originally discovered on a high ridge just inside the Italian border with Austria. Only later did scientists realise he was the oldest and best preserved mummy in the world.
Then a battle began between the two countries over ownership of his 5,300-year-old corpse, a dispute eventually won by Italy after it was decreed that Otzi's resting place lay a few hundred feet inside its side of the border.
Otzi now rests in a special chamber - in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano - in which his body is preserved in air chilled to minus 6C and kept at 99 per cent humidity.
Initial investigations revealed Otzi was about 5ft 2in tall, in his mid-forties, and probably had a beard. Then archaeologists revisited the site of the body's discovery to uncover new evidence while researchers began studying the seeds and plants he was carrying, the contents of his stomach, the state of his skin, nails and hair, the make-up of his weapons and composition of his clothes.
Analyses have forced researchers to overturn most of their initial ideas about Otzi's supposed primitive status, state the Scientific American authors: botanists Professor James Dickson, of Glasgow University and Klaus Oeggl of Innsbruck University, and ecologist Linda Handley of the Scottish Crop Research Institute at Invergowrie, near Dundee.
For example, they reveal that Otzi's longbow was made of yew - 'the best wood for such purpose because of its great tensile strength,' they say. Long bows of yew gave the English army its crucial advantage at Agincourt, a power Otzi and his people had discovered thousands of years earlier.
In addition, Otzi was found to have been carrying two pieces of birch bracket fungus, which is known to contain pharmacologically active compounds. In short, he had his own first-aid kit.
Then there was his clothing: leggings, loincloth and jacket made of deer and goat hide; a cape made of grass and the bark of the linden tree; a hat of bearskin; shoes insulated with grass, with bearskin soles and goatskin uppers. He was protected against Alpine weather.
Clearly, Stone Age Europeans were sophisticated individuals who exploited local resources and led lives that were far from brutish or short.
It is clear Otzi had been unwell: his fingernail growth patterns suggest he had been very ill three times in the last six months of his life. Austrian scientists have discovered he had become infested with intestinal parasitic worms that would have triggered diarrhoea and dysentery.
Dickson and colleagues have carried out studies of moss species in the region, and conclude - from the samples found in Otzi's backpack- that he probably came from Juval Castle to the South, where archaeologists have found evidence of prehistoric settlements.
The mystery still to be resolved concerns Otzi's identity. He was not a shepherd: as the scientists say, 'no wool was on or around his person, no dead collie by his feet, no crook in his hand'. He was not a hunter: his bow was unstrung and most of his arrows lacked heads.
'Other early ideas about Otzi are that he was an outlaw, a trader, a shaman or a warrior. None of these has any solid basis, unless the piece of fungus he was carrying had medicinal or spiritual use for shamans,' they conclude.
Juval Castle mentioned in the article, built in 1278ad.
I think they're 'fussing' about harming the mummy by going in to get it. I'm pretty sure I've seen an Xray showing the arrow head though.
It was a Mafia hit.
A find like this is certainly something to ponder but "what you see is what you get".
Nah. That was Kennewick Man and he survived that injury because the bone was healing around the wound. Albeit, the reports I read was that at minimum he would have been in pain and have a limp. He was about 45 years old when he died.
Because of the quantity found, they believe he was a smelterer
Yup. I believe some were embarrassed. Thanks for the picture.
I agree, that will be amazing. Geneology will go through a revolution in the next 10-20 years. DNA testing prices will come way down and you and I can go looking for ancient relatives. I'm English and the first DNA I will compare is mine and Cheddar Man's.(9,000 years old)
Otzi was a regular Daniel Boone on Pastanoids.
The Indians of the North West used Yew wood for their bows. I have been told they would cut the saplings and bury them for a year to age the wood before making the bow.
Regarding the Ice Mans current relatives, theyve already been located in England. In the bookThe Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes he documents the analysis of the mitochondral DNA from populations all across Europe and traces them to seven different women from different time periods. The Ice Man was discovered as he was finalizing his research and he realized he might have the match for a living descendant in his data. He searched and found a match in a young schoolboy in rural England.
"Sykes begins with the story of how he was able to identify a living descendant of the five-thousand year old "ice man" found in northern Italy in 1994 by comparing mitochondrial DNA sequences. Mitochondrial DNA is contained only in egg cells (thus, "Eve" and her daughters), not in sperm cells, and transmitted without recombination so that the changes are all the result of mutations that occur at a predictable rate over time."
It's a great book.
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