Ötzi – the Iceman

Ötzi – the Iceman
Adapted from http://www.iceman.it/en/node/226
The Discovery
Thursday, September 19, 1991 – 1.30 p.m.
Tisenjoch - 3210 m above sea level
Ötztal Alps (South Tyrol, Italy)
On a sunny day two hikers, Erika and Helmut Simon, from Nuremberg in
Germany, were walking in the Alps. The Simons decided to take a shortcut
through the mountains. As they walked past some rocks, they noticed
something brown on the ground. At first they presumed it must be some
trash, but on closer inspection they realized with horror that they had
discovered a human body.
Only the back of the head, the shoulders and part of his back were
visible. The body lay with its chest against a rock and its face was
obscured. Before leaving the scene, they took a photograph of what
they presumed was a victim of an accident a few years back.
At this point nobody could have imagined that the dead man would
become famous.
The story of a 20th century archaeological sensation was about to be
The Recovery
Friday, September 20, 1991
The day after the body was discovered, an Austrian team tried
to remove the man from the ice. The weather was terrible.
Using a pneumatic drill, the police officer Anton Koler and the
mountain ranger Markus Pirpamer tried to free the body. Due
to the presence of meltwater, the two men had to work
virtually under water, resulting in damage to the body’s left hip.
With the weather worsening by the minute and lacking the
necessary tools, the team were forced to abandon their work.
Saturday, September 21, 1991
The next day attempts at recovering the body were again not possible – this time due to the fact that no
helicopters were available.
Sunday, September 22, 1991
On Sunday the rescue team leader Alois Pirpamer and Franz Gurschler made their way to the mountain. Their
aim was to prepare the body for recovery the following day. They collected the objects around the body and
packed them in a plastic bag.
Monday, September 23, 1991
On the Monday the body was finally removed from the ice. Using ice picks and ski poles, the team was able to
free the mummy fully from the ice. From the ice emerged numerous pieces of leather, string, straps and hay,
which were placed beside the body. The body was flown by helicopter to the town of Vent in the Austrian Ötz
The Scene of the Find
The Iceman was discovered in a 40 m-long, 2.5- to 3 m-deep and 5- to 8 mwide rocky gully surrounded by steep stone walls at an altitude of 3210 m
above sea level. The mummy lay on the western end of the rock
formation. This formation protected the body from the enormous forces
of the ice, which slowly built up above it. At the time the border was
drawn in 1922, this area – now free of ice – was covered by a 20 m-thick
layer of snow.
What is so extraordinary about the Iceman?
Numerous artificially mummified bodies have been found
around the world. In some past cultures it was traditional to
prevent the bodies of special people from decomposing. There
are examples not only from Egypt but also from graves in Chile,
Peru and Greenland.
Naturally mummified corpses have been uncovered from many
places, most of which originated from around the time of Christ.
The Iceman is one of the oldest mummies in the world.
However, it is not only his historical age that makes him particularly valuable for scientists but also the way in
which he was mummified. The body tissue is elastic and suitable for performing scientific investigations.
Moreover, he is a natural mummy. The Iceman with his complete clothing and equipment provides a picture
of Stone Age life in Europe which will enhance our knowledge on the people living at that time, for example,
the way people used to live and their migration patterns.