How Did Oetzi, the Iceman, Die?

Head blow, not arrow shot

By on August 31st, 2007 09:18 GMT
This is the oldest natural ice mummy: 5,300 years old. The mummified, frozen body of Ötzi was discovered in 1991 by accident by two German tourists and the Ötztal region between Austria and Italy where it was discovered was called after it.

The body, stuck in the Schnalstal glacier, offers a glimpse at the European Copper Age. Ever since this discovery, everybody has wanted to know why the mysterious Iceman died.

In 2000, the body was temporarily thawed for investigation. It appeared that his last meal was made of unleavened bread and some greens, but also venison, thus the guy seems to have been a hunter. Even the new analysis shows that his good health and equipment point that he was not a laborer.

Oetzi carried a bow, arrows and a copper ax. The mummy belonging to the 45-year old, 1.65 cm (5 ft. 5 in.) tall and 38 kg (84 lbs) heavy man has been intensively measured, dated, examined and X-rayed.

Earlier this year a team led by Frank Rühli of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich in Switzerland found a lesion of an artery near the shoulder, below the clavicle bone, caused by an arrowhead, which had previously been tracked into the mummy's back and it was accompanied by a large hematoma (bruise). The researchers concluded then that the Iceman died within a short time due to the arrow shot, as he basically bled to death, after the shock and heart attack.

Now, new forensic data and CAT scans have revealed he died of head trauma, not by arrow wound. Blood loss from the arrow wound must have made Oetzi lose consciousness. Oetzi could have died either from hitting his head on a rock when he fell or because his attacker inflicted him a blow in the head.

The new research considers the way the man's body was discovered: face down, with his left arm across his chest. Oetzi could have fallen backward, but was turned onto his stomach by his aggressor, who then pulled out his arrow, leaving the arrowhead imbedded in Oetzi's body.

The new analysis showed that Oetzi got his final position before rigor mortis installed.

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