Archaeology Odyssey 5:4, July/August 2002

Field Notes

By Judith HarrisMichael H. SedgeRaymond Stock

Archaeology Odyssey

Was the Alpine Iceman Murdered?

More than a decade after his discovery, Oetzi the Iceman is still in the news.

The 5,200-year-old mummy was found in 1991 by hikers high in the mountains of northern Italy’s Oetz Valley. The frozen 35-year-old man was still wearing a fur hat, a deerskin tunic and boots stitched up with animal tendons. Scientists later noticed that Oetzi’s body was covered with tattoos corresponding to acupuncture points. Analysis of the contents of his stomach suggests that he was a vegetarian. Recently, however, this image of a squeaky clean hipster has been tarnished—for it appears that Oetzi was also murdered.

In July 2001 an arrowhead was found in Oetzi’s back. After finding the arrowhead, researchers interviewed alpine guide Alois Pirpamer, who was a member of the original investigation team. Pirpamer recalled that before the mummy was extracted from the ice, the frozen right hand held a small object resembling a dagger, which apparently fell into a pool of icewater and went unnoticed. This was confirmed when investigators reviewed television news film of the recovery.

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