On September 19, 1991, the news broke: two German climbers who were hiking in the Öztal Alps , on the border between Austria and Italy, discovered what appeared to be the remains of a frozen man more than 3000 meters above sea level . What nobody imagined is that this corpse was more than 4000 years old. At first it was taken to Innsbrück, where it was found to be a mummified body due to extreme and perpetual cold.
Then the fight began over which country had rights to it . A whole diplomatic dispute because the borders between Austria and Italy were not well defined since when they were drawn in the St. Germain-en-Laye treaty of 1919, signed by the victorious allied countries of World War I and the newly formed republic of Austria (the treaty declared the Austro-Hungarian Empire dissolved), the area was covered with ice and could not be precisely defined . It was necessary to measure again and that was done that same year of 1991: the verdict was that the mummy had been found 93 meters from the border… in Italian territory . The University of Innsbruck returned it to its legal owners seven years later, who built a museum in Bolzano that, although baptized with the name of the South Tyrol Archeology Museum, was made to house the mummy and all its belongings.
Needless to say, its discovery has revealed a tremendous amount of information about the lifestyle during the Chalcolithic, the Copper Age . From his analysis we know that he died around 3255 BC , when he was about 45 years old. He was 1.60 m tall and weighed 50 kg , and had arthritis, cavities, Lyme disease (a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks that causes fever, headache and joint pain) and had high levels of arsenic in his system, probably for having worked with copper. From the presence of certain marks on his nails known as Beau’s lines, the coroners inferred that he was sick up to three times in the six months before he died. The poor thing was made a painting.
The presence of pollen revealed that it died in spring or summer and its last meal consisted of chamois and red deer meat , some type of cereal (perhaps in the form of bread), and for dessert, sloes . Curiously, moss was also found in his stomach, but he did not eat it like we do lettuce, but his ingestion was accidental: he had a cut on his hand and had placed a dressing of swamp moss, because he must have known its therapeutic properties.
The information collected is immense, but what concerns us is the form of death ; that’s where the mystery is.
In 2001, X-rays and a CT scan revealed that Ötzi had an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder , corresponding to a small tear found in his coat. Did he die from blood loss? The truth is that it was a very serious injury, even for the medical knowledge of our time. The arrow was found to have been moved , as if he had tried to pull it out. He had bruises and cuts on his right hand – one of them at the base of his thumb, which reached to the bone -, wrists and chest, as well as brain trauma caused by a blow to the head. The most plausible hypothesis is that Ötzi bled to death after the arrow broke his scapula, damaged nerves and blood vessels, and lodged in his lung.
What happened is obvious: he was involved in a fight . Traces of blood from at least four other people in his team were found: one on his knife, two on an arrowhead and a fourth on his coat. Ötzi apparently killed two people with the same arrow, which he was able to retrieve on both occasions. The blood on his coat is interpreted as belonging to a wounded comrade he carried on his back , but such an idea belongs to pure speculation. His posture at the moment of death, with his body face down and his left arm folded over his chest, suggests that he tried to remove the arrow before he died.
The reason for the death is clear , but what is a mystery is what he did a day and a half before. The analysis of the pollen shows that he moved a lot at that time : first he was at an altitude of 2,500 meters, then he descended to less than 1,200, towards the valley, where he had the confrontation that caused the injuries to his hand. Then he climbed back above 3,000 meters, and there someone shot an arrow at him in the back. Why did he go up and down a mountain twice in such a short time? The reasons for this and the reasons he had to get involved in two fights on the same day will forever be hidden in the mists of history.