Do you love the mountains? Do you like to go hiking? Can you imagine anything better than hiking through the Alps along the border of Italy and Austria?
That's probably what German hikers Erika and Helmut Simon thought when they were hiking in that area on September 19, 1991. Unbeknownst to them, they were about to make one of the most amazing scientific discoveries in recent memory.
Hiking near the edge of a melting glacier, they spotted something brown a ways off the trail. Instead of a fallen tree, a large rock, or an animal carcass, they found a human corpse still mostly encased in glacial ice.
At first, they thought it must be a victim of a recent mountaineering accident. Once the body was removed and studied, however, it turned out to be the mummified corpse of a human that lived approximately 5,000 years ago!
The incredible find has since been studied by hundreds of scientists. As a result, it has been given numerous different names, including the Iceman, Ötzi (based upon the area of the Alps where he was found), the Similaun Man (based upon the name of the mountain where he was found), the Man from Hauslabjoch, the Hauslabjoch mummy (based upon the area of Austria near where he was found), the Tyrolean Iceman (based upon the area of Italy near where he was found), and Homo tyrolensis (the scientific name given to the early human species he represents).
The Iceman, as we shall call him, was well-preserved by the glacial ice that enclosed his body soon after his death sometime between 3,239 and 3,105 B.C. Using the most-advanced scientific techniques available, scientists have been able to piece together many facts about the Iceman.
Estimated to stand approximately five and a half feet tall and weighing 110 pounds, the Iceman died when he was about 45 years old. Unfortunately, he was not in good health when he died. In addition to gallstones and hardened arteries, the Iceman had stomach parasites and probably Lyme disease. At the time of death, he also suffered an arrow wound to his shoulder and blunt force trauma to his head.
Scientists have also been able to get a good idea of the kinds of foods the Iceman ate. His last meals likely included bread made from herbs, as well as meat from red deer and ibex, which is a type of wild goat. He also likely ate grains, roots, and fruits.
The Iceman's clothes were suited to his environment. His coat, belt, pants, and shoes were all made of leather from the skins of various animals, including bear and deer. He was likely a hunter, given that he was found with a copper axe, a flint knife, and an unfinished bow with a quiver of over a dozen flint-tipped arrows.
One of the most curious discoveries about the Iceman had to be the fact that his body was covered in more than 60 tattoos from head to foot. Made by rubbing charcoal into shallow cuts, they weren't likely created to enhance his appearance. Instead, scientists believe they marked acupuncture points and were used to relieve pain.