10 Facts About Otzi the Iceman

In the article, “An Introduction to Mother Nature’s Mummies,” you encountered Otzi the Iceman, who serves as the oldest natural mummy of a European man that lived during the Copper Age. In this article, you will learn facts concerning the state of his body and what researchers were able to discover about his life, health, and culture.

1) Birth and Death Details

The birth and death of Otzi the Iceman is estimated to date back to around 3300 BC. It is thought that he was born in a village close to what is now known as Bolzano, Italy. His body was found in the Otztal Alps , located close to Hauslabjoch and on the border between Austria and Italy. He is estimated to have reached the age of 45 years old.

2) Mummy’s Last Meal

Upon investigating the remains in Otzi’s intestinal tract, researchers learned of two meals , one of which was eaten around 8 hours before he died. His diet at that time consisted of chamois meat (a species of goat-antelope native to Europe) and red deer meat. Some grain, roots, and fruits, such as the small plum-like fruit of the blackthorn tree, accompanied the meat. Interestingly, scientists were able to analyze his diet from several months before his death using samples of his hair.  

3) The Presence of Copper

In samples of Otzi’s hair, high levels of copper particles and arsenic were found. Scientists felt that he may have engaged in copper smelting , possibly as part of his occupation. The copper axe that Otzi was found with was composed of 99.7% pure copper.  

4) The Life Otzi Led

By taking a look at the proportions and features of Otzi’s femur, pelvis, and tibia, researchers believe he may have led a life that included long walks over a terrain comprised of many hills. The degree of mobility of Otzi’s remains differed from other bones associated with Europeans living during the Copper Age. A theory focusing on this aspect of his life is that Otzi may have been a shepherd living in an environment with a high altitude.

5) Poor Health

It’s amazing what scientists are able to learn by looking at the remains of someone from the long-ago past. Scientists learned that Otzi was a victim of whipworm, a parasite that attacks the intestines. CT scans also reveals that three or four of his right ribs had been compressed , most likely from his lying-down position after death or perhaps from the weight of the ice, which could have crushed his body.

Thanks to finding the only remaining fingernail belonging to Otzi, researchers saw three Beau’s lines. Running in a horizontal pattern, Beau lines run side to side on the fingernail in deep grooves. They often look like indentations or ridges on the nail plate. The lines revealed that his last incident took place two months before he died with an illness that lasted around two weeks.