Otzi The Iceman

Otzi. also called Otzi the Iceman, the Similaun Man, the Man from Hauslabjoch, Homo tyrolensis, and the Hauslabjoch mummy, is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived around 3,300 BCE. Otzi was discovered in Europe 1991 in the Otztal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border. He is Europe's oldest known natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy.

Otzi was found by two German tourists, Helmut and Erika Simon, on September 19, 1991. The body was at first thought to be a modern corpse, like several others which had been recently found in the region. It was roughly recovered by the Austrian authorities and taken to Innsbruck, where its true age was finally discovered. Subsequent surveys showed that the body had been located a few meters inside Italian territory. It is now on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bozen-Bolzano, Italy.

The body has been extensively examined, measured, x-rayed, and dated. Tissues and gut contents were examined microscopically, as was the pollen found on his gear. At the time of his death, Otzi was a 30-to-45-year old man, approximately 160 cm (5'3") tall.

Facial Reconstruction

Using modern 3-D technology, a facial reconstruction has been created for the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. It shows Otzi looking old for his 45 years, with deep-set brown eyes, a beard, a furrowed face, and sunken cheeks. He is depicted looking tired and ungroomed.

Discovery - February 25, 2011
Brown-eyed, bearded, furrow faced, and tired: this is how Otzi the Iceman might have looked, according to the latest reconstruction based on 20 years of research and investigations. The model was produced with the latest in forensic mapping technology that uses three-dimensional images of the mummy's skull as well as infrared and tomographic images. The new reconstruction shows a prematurely old man, with deep-set eyes, sunken cheeks, a furrowed face and ungroomed beard and hair. Although he looks tired, Otzi has vivid brown eyes. Indeed, recent research on the 5,300-year-old mummy has shown that the Stone Age man did not have blue eyes as previously thought. Believed to have died around the age of 45, Otzi was about 1.60 meters (5 foot, 3 inches) tall and weighed 50 kilograms (110 pounds).


In May 2012, scientists announced the discovery that Otzi still had intact blood cells. These are the oldest blood cells ever identified. In most bodies this old, the blood cells are either shrunken or mere remnants, but Otzi's have the same dimensions as living red blood cells and resembled a modern-day sample.

Oetzi the Iceman's blood is world's oldest   BBC - May 2, 2012
Researchers studying Oetzi, a 5,300-year-old body found frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991, have found red blood cells around his wounds. Blood cells tend to degrade quickly, and earlier scans for blood within Oetzi's body turned up nothing.


A recent DNA study conducted by Walther Parson of Innsbruck Medical University revealed Otzi has 19 living genetic relatives.

Fresh look at DNA from Oetzi the Iceman traces his roots to present day Turkey   PhysOrg - August 19, 2023
Oetzi the Iceman has a new look. Decades after the famous glacier mummy was discovered in the Italian Alps, scientists have dug back into his DNA to paint a better picture of the ancient hunter.

The Famous 'Iceman' Otzi Is Not Who We Thought He Was   Science Alert - August 16, 2023
The 5,300-year-old mummy, nicknamed …tzi (which rhymes with "tootsie"), is the oldest human body ever found intact. Otzi may not be a hairy, caucasian hunter-gatherer, as previous reconstructions suggested, but a farmer with relatively dark skin and a balding head. The genome analysis revealed phenotypic traits such as high skin pigmentation, dark eye color, and male pattern baldness that are in stark contrast to the previous reconstructions that show a light skinned, light eyed, and quite hairy male.

Scientists say Otzi the Iceman has living relatives, 5,300 years later   NBC - October 15, 2013
A researcher examines the 5,300-year-old body of Otzi the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy. No next-of-kin was around to claim the frozen 5,300-year-old body of Otzi the Iceman when it was found in the Italian Alps in 1991, but researchers now report that there are at least 19 genetic relatives of Otzi living in Austria's Tyrol region.

Link to Oetzi the Iceman found in living Austrians   BBC - October 10, 2013
Austrian scientists have found that 19 Tyrolean men alive today are related to Oetzi the Iceman, whose 5,300-year-old frozen body was found in the Alps. Their relationship was established through DNA analysis by scientists from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University. The men have not been told about their connection to Oetzi. The DNA tests were taken from blood donors in Tyrol.

Oetzi the Iceman's nuclear genome gives new insights   BBC - February 28, 2012
New clues have emerged in what could be described as the world's oldest murder case: that of Oetzi the "Iceman", whose 5,300-year-old body was discovered frozen in the Italian Alps in 1991. Oetzi's full genome has now been reported in Nature Communications. It reveals that he had brown eyes, "O" blood type, was lactose intolerant, and was predisposed to heart disease. They also show him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium. Analysis of series of anomalies in the Iceman's DNA also revealed him to be more closely related to modern inhabitants of Corsica and Sardinia than to populations in the Alps, where he was unearthed.

Gene Map to Give Insight into 5,200-year-old Iceman   Live Science - August 5, 2010
Iceman, the Neolithic mummy found accidentally in the Eastern Alps by German hikers in 1991, has offered researchers all sorts of clues to life 5,200 years ago, from his goat-hide coat to the meat and unleavened bread in his stomach to the arrow wound in his shoulder.


Otzi apparently had whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), an intestinal parasite. During CT scans, it was observed that three or four of his right ribs had been cracked when he had been lying face down after death, or where the ice had crushed his body. One of his fingernails (of the two found) shows three Beau's lines indicating he was sick three times in the six months before he died. The last incident, two months before he died, lasted about two weeks.

Also, it was found that his epidermis, the outer skin layer, was missing, a natural process from his mummification in ice. Otzi's teeth showed considerable internal deterioration from cavities. These oral pathologies may have been brought about by his grain-heavy, high carbohydrate diet. DNA analysis in February 2012 revealed that Otzi was lactose intolerant, supporting the theory that lactose intolerance was still common at that time, despite the increasing spread of agriculture and dairying.

Otzi the iceman used Acupuncture: Europe's oldest mummy is covered in prick-marks that were a primitive form of joint pain relief 5,300 years ago   Daily Mail - September 24, 2018
Otzi the Iceman may have benefited from a form of prehistoric healthcare, tattoos on his remains suggest. Strange patterns discovered around some of the joints on his body may be evidence of a surprisingly sophisticated system of medicine, researchers say. Some of these lines and dots are focused around points traditional used in acupuncture and could have relieved pain in his aging ankles and wrists. The 5,300-year-old mummified man known as Otzi was found in a glacier in the Alps in 1991, between what is now Austria and Italy. Since his discovery, the copper-age hunter has been examined by multiple teams of scientists, with new discoveries coming to light each time.

Neolithic Iceman Otzi Had Bad Teeth   Science Daily - April 10, 2013
Periodontitis, Tooth Decay, Accident-Related Dental Damage in Ice Mummy - The latest scientific findings provide interesting information on the dietary patterns of the Neolithic Iceman and on the evolution of medically significant oral pathologies.


Analysis of Otzi's gut contents showed two meals, one of ibex meat, the second of red deer meat, both consumed with some grain. Pollen in the first meal showed that it had been consumed in a mid-altitude conifer forest.

Analysis of Otzi's intestinal contents showed two meals (the last one consumed about eight hours before his death), one of chamois meat, the other of red deer and herb bread. Both were eaten with grain as well as roots and fruits. The grain from both meals was a highly processed einkorn wheat bran, quite possibly eaten in the form of bread. In the proximity of the body, and thus possibly originating from the Iceman's provisions, chaff and grains of einkorn and barley, and seeds of flax and poppy were discovered, as well as kernels of sloes (small plumlike fruits of the blackthorn tree) and various seeds of berries growing in the wild. Hair analysis was used to examine his diet from several months before.

Pollen in the first meal showed that it had been consumed in a mid-altitude conifer forest, and other pollens indicated the presence of wheat and legumes, which may have been domesticated crops. Pollen grains of hop-hornbeam were also discovered. The pollen was very well preserved, with the cells inside remaining intact, indicating that it had been fresh (a few hours old) at the time of Otzi's death, which places the event in the spring. Einkorn wheat is harvested in the late summer, and sloes in the autumn; these must have been stored from the previous year.

In 2009, a CAT scan revealed that the stomach had shifted upward to where his lower lung area would normally be. Analysis of the contents revealed the partly digested remains of ibex meat, confirmed by DNA analysis, suggesting he had a meal less than two hours before his death. Wheat grains were also found.

Iceman Oetzi's last meal was 'Stone Age bacon'   PhysOrg - January 22, 2017
Oetzi the famous "iceman" mummy of the Alps appears to have enjoyed a fine slice or two of Stone Age bacon before he was killed by an arrow some 5,300 years ago. His last meal was most likely dried goat meat, according to scientists who recently managed to dissect the contents of Oetzi's stomach.

Daily Life

High levels of both copper particles and arsenic were found in Otzi's hair. This, along with Otzi's copper axe which is 99.7% pure copper, has led scientists to speculate that Otzi was involved in copper smelting. By examining the proportions of Otzi's tibia, femur and pelvis, Christopher Ruff has determined that Otzi's lifestyle included long walks over hilly terrain. This degree of mobility is not characteristic of other Copper Age Europeans. Ruff proposes that this may indicate that Otzi was a high-altitude shepherd.


Otzi had 57 tattoos, some of which were located on or near acupuncture points that coincide with the modern points that would be used to treat symptoms of diseases that Otzi seems to have suffered from, such as digestive parasites and osteoarthrosis. Some scientists believe that these tattoos indicate an early type of acupuncture.

Otzi had several carbon tattoos including groups of short, parallel, vertical lines to both sides of the lumbar spine, a cruciform mark behind the right knee, and various marks around both ankles. Radiological examination of his bones showed "age-conditioned or strain-induced degeneration" in these areas, including osteochondrosis and slight spondylosis in the lumbar spine and wear-and-tear degeneration in the knee and especially the ankle joints. It has been speculated that these tattoos may have been related to pain relief treatments similar to acupressure or acupuncture. If so, this is at least 2000 years before their previously known earliest use in China (c. 1000 BCE).

Artist Tattooed Himself to Solve Mystery of Otzi The Iceman's Tattoos   Science Alert - March 14, 2024

A man who died around 5,300 years ago was tattooed using methods fascinatingly similar to modern ones. Otzi the Iceman, whose exceptionally mummified remains were found decades ago in a glacier in the Otztal Alps, was covered in tattoos. Scientists carefully studying his remains have counted 61 carbon pigment markings on his lower back, abdomen, left wrist, and lower legs. Most of the archaeologists who have discussed Otzi's tattoos in recent years are upfront that we don't know how they were made - but the idea still appears in just about every popular media discussion.

Otzi iceman's tattoos came from fireplace   MSNBC - July 17, 2009
The 57 tattoos sported by Otzi, the 5300-year-old Tyrolean iceman mummy, were made from fireplace soot that contained glittering, colorful precious stone crystals, according to an upcoming study in the Journal of Archaeological Science. The determination supports prior research that the tattoos were associated with acupuncture treatments for chronic ailments suffered by the iceman, whose frozen body was found remarkably well preserved in the Similaun Glacier of the Alps in 1991. The findings also suggest how prehistoric people were tattooed in the days before commercial inks and electric tattooing machines.


His clothes, including a woven grass cloak

and leather vest and shoes, were quite sophisticated.

Otzi's shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for top panels, and a netting made of tree bark. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like warm socks. The shoes have since been reproduced by experts and found to constitute such excellent footwear that there are plans for commercial production.

Here's What the Iceman Was Wearing When He Died 5,300 Years Ago   National Geographic - August 18, 2016
Clothes worn by Otzi the Iceman 5,300 years ago include (clockwise from top left): hay-stuffed shoes, goat- and sheepskin coat, goatskin leggings, bear fur hat, grass matting and sheepskin loincloth. Since the discovery of Otzi the Iceman in a European glacier in 1991, scientists have recovered a wealth of information from his 5,300-year-old mummified remains: The brown-eyed, gap-toothed, tattooed man most likely spent his 40-odd years farming and herding, and was probably suffering from a painful stomach ache at the time that he died a quick - albeit violent - death in the Oztal Alps.


Weapons - Tools

Items found with the Iceman were a copper axe with a yew handle, a flint-bladed knife with an ash handle and a quiver of 14 arrows with viburnum and dogwood shafts. Two of the arrows, which were broken, were tipped with flint and had fletching (stabilizing fins), while the other 12 were unfinished and untipped. The arrows were found in a quiver with what is presumed to be a bow string, an unidentified tool, and an antler tool which might have been used for sharpening arrow points. There was also an unfinished yew longbow that was 1.82 metres (72 in) long.

In addition, among Otzi's possessions were berries, two birch bark baskets, and two species of polypore mushrooms with leather strings through them. One of these, the birch fungus, is known to have antibacterial properties, and was probably used for medicinal purposes. The other was a type of tinder fungus, included with part of what appeared to be a complex firestarting kit. The kit featured pieces of over a dozen different plants, in addition to flint and pyrite for creating sparks.

Otzi's copper axe was of particular interest. The axe's haft is 60 centimetres (24 in) long and made from carefully worked yew with a right-angled crook at the shoulder, leading to the blade. The 9.5 centimetres (3.7 in) long axe head is made of almost pure copper, produced by a combination of casting, cold forging, polishing, and sharpening. It was let into the forked end of the crook and fixed there using birch-tar and tight leather lashing. The blade part of the head extends out of the lashing and shows clear signs of having been used to chop and cut. At the time, such an axe would have been a valuable possession, important both as a tool and as a status symbol for the bearer.

Among Otzi's possessions were two species of polypore mushrooms. One of these (the birch fungus) is known to have antibacterial properties, and was likely used for medical purposes. The other was a type of tinder fungus, included with part of what appeared to be a complex firestarting kit. The kit featured pieces of over a dozen different plants, in addition to flint and pyrite for creating sparks.

Ax Linked to Otzi the Iceman Found North of the Alps   Live Science - October 6, 2017
Archaeologists found a copper blade in Switzerland that's just like the ax Otzi the famous "Iceman"was carrying when he died. Like Otzi's ax, this tool was made with copper that came from hundreds of miles away, in present-day Tuscany in central Italy. The discovery could shed light on Copper Age connections across Europe. Bad fortune eventually made Otzi the Iceman famous. About 5,300 years ago, he was shot with an arrow, struck in the head and left to die near a mountain pass high in the Alps. He was entombed in a glacier until 1991, when hikers near the Italian-Austrian border discovered his body.


Otzi the Iceman's mummified corpse was found in an Alpine gully - but he didn't die there, new study finds   Live Science - November 23, 2022
The ancient, mummified body of Otzi the Iceman was found decades ago by hikers in the high Alps - but how did it get there? A new study questions the prevailing story of Otzi's death more than 5,000 years ago, suggesting that Otzi did not die in the gully where he was found. Rather, his remains may have been carried there by the periodic thawing of the ice that surrounded his body. Researchers propose that other prehistoric people who died in icy, mountainous regions could have been preserved by the same process.

DNA analysis revealed traces of blood from four other people on his gear: one from his knife, two from the same arrowhead, and a fourth from his coat. A CAT scan revealed that Otzi had what appeared to be an arrowhead lodged in one shoulder when he died, matching a small tear on his coat. The arrow shaft had been removed, apparently by a companion. He also had bruises and cuts on his hands, wrists, and chest.

From such evidence, and an examination of his weapons, molecular biologist Thomas Loy from the University of Queensland believes that Otzi and one or two companions were hunters who engaged in a skirmish with a rival group. At some point, he may have carried (or been carried by) a companion. Weakened by blood loss, Otzi apparently put down his equipment neatly against a rock, lay down and expired.

Before the latest evidence, it was speculated that, rather than fleeing attackers, he was ritually killed to propitiate a god or gods, or that he was a chieftain and therefore ritually killed to ensure fertility. One of the most fanciful theories was that he was in fact an Egyptian who had been ritually castrated. Later examination, however, revealed that, though shrunken by the mummification, Otzi did in fact possess a penis.

Otzi the Iceman's Dark Secrets: Protein Investigation Supports Brain Injury Theory   Science Daily - June 10, 2013
Using just a pinhead-sized sample of brain tissue from the world-famous glacier corpse, the team was able to extract and analyze proteins to further support the theory that Otzi suffered some form of brain damage in the final moments of his life 5,300 years ago.

Burial Theory

In May 2012, scientists announced the discovery that Otzi still had intact blood cells. These are the oldest blood cells ever identified. In most bodies this old, the blood cells are either shrunken or mere remnants, but Otzi's have the same dimensions as living red blood cells and resembled a modern-day sample.

Otzi the Iceman may have been buried, says team   BBC - August 26, 2010
Otzi, the 5,000 year old "Iceman" found in the Italian Alps, may have been ceremonially buried, archaeologists say. An autopsy showed that Otzi had been murdered, dying of an arrow wound. While this is not disputed, a new study suggests that months after his death, OOtzi's corpse was carried to the high mountain pass where it was found. The discovery site therefore may not be a murder scene after all, but a burial ground.


Influenced by the "Curse of the pharaohs" and the media theme of cursed mummies, claims have been made that Otzi is cursed. The allegation revolves around the deaths of several people connected to the discovery, recovery and subsequent examination of Otzi. It is alleged that they have died under mysterious circumstances. These persons include co-discoverer Helmut Simon, and Konrad Spindler, the first examiner of the mummy in Austria at a local morgue in 1991.

To date, the deaths of seven people, of which four were the result of some violence in the form of accidents, have been attributed to the alleged curse. In reality hundreds of people were involved in the recovery of Otzi and are still involved in studying the body and the artifacts found with it. The fact that a small percentage of them have died over the years has not been shown to be statistically significant.

Death renews iceman 'curse' claim BBC - November 5, 2005
The death of a molecular biologist has fueled renewed speculation about a "curse" connected to an ancient corpse. Tom Loy, 63, had analyzed DNA found on "Otzi", the Stone Age hunter whose remains were discovered in 1991. Dr Loy died in unclear circumstances in Australia two weeks ago, it has been announced, making him the seventh person connected with Otzi to die. Colleagues and family of Dr Loy have rejected the notion that he was the victim of a "curse". It is not known how many people have worked on the Otzi project - and whether the death rate is statistically high.