The Journey and Fall of the Iceman in The Iceman Murder Mystery

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The excavation and autopsy of the iceman has led to many new finds in the fields of anthropology, biology, and history. Even after having had discovered him 28+ years ago, we are still learning new things from him. The one thing that has eluded us since his discovery was the manner of his death. The video, The Iceman’s Murder Mystery by Nova, shows that according to evidence and information avliable at the time, the iceman, dubbed Otzi, was a chief or high-ranking tribe member and was murdered while journeying through the mountains. Modern technology is now able to help us solve the real reason behind Otzi’s death.

Nova's The Iceman Murder Mystery takes us into the discovery of the oldest preserved mummy from the stone age. On September 19, 1991, two German tourists discovered Ötzi in the hills, at an altitude of 3,210 meters on the east ridge of the Fineilspitze in the Ötztal Alps on the border between Austria and Italy. The tourists, Helmut and Erika Simon, believed the body was a mountaineer recently deceased. On 22 September, the body was semi-officially recovered and finally saved the next day. It was transported with other objects found to the medical examiner's office in Innsbruck. Archeologist Konrad Spindler of the University of Innsbruck examined the find there on 24 September. He dated the find to be 'approximately four thousand years old,' based on the typology of an axe among the objects that were retrieved. Since 1998, it has been on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, the capital of South Tyrol, Italy. The videos main point is to figure out the cause of death of Otzi. The cause of death remained uncertain until 10 years after the discovery of the body.

It was previously assumed that Ötzi perished during a winter storm owing to exposure. X-rays and a CT scan showed that when he died, Ötzi had an arrowhead on his left arm and a similar tear on his coat. The arrowhead finding led investigators to theorize that Ötzi had died from the wound's blood loss, which would certainly have been lethal even if modern medical procedures were usable. More research found that the arrow shaft had been extracted before death, and a close examination of the corpse indicated bruises and cuts in the arms, wrists and neck and brain injury indicative of a blow to the head. One of the wounds on the bottom of his thumb extended down to the bone, but before his death he had no time to heal. It is now assumed that after the arrow pierced the scapula and destroyed nerves and blood vessels before landing near his lung, leading him to bleed to death.

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During the 9-hour autopsy, the scientists were able to remove many different tissue samples, including stomach, mouth, and muscle samples. A CAT scan revealed that the stomach had moved up to where it would normally house the lower lung area. Content analysis revealed the partially digested remains of ibex meat, confirmed by DNA analysis, suggesting that he had a meal, less than two hours before his death. Grains of wheat have also been found. It is thought that Ötzi most likely had a few slices of dried, fatty meat, probably bacon, from a wild goat in South Tyrol. Analysis of the intestinal content of Ötzi showed two meals, one of chamois meat, the other of red deer and herbal bread, both eaten with roots and fruits.

Along with his body, they found a copper axe dating back to as old his Otzi is. This puts ancient humans at making copper tools 500 years before the first thought widespread use of copper. He also had with him a flint knife, along with a bow, quiver, 2 finished arrows, and 12 unfinished arrows. Fungus looped through a band of cord was found, which was thought to be used as a medicine or for healing. His outfit had been partly degraded, but they were able to salvage some and figured out he had been wearing which included a cloak made of woven grass and a coat, a belt, a pair of leggings, a loincloth and shoes, all made of leather of different skins. He also wore a leather chin strap on a bearskin cap. The shoes were durable and large, apparently designed to move through the snow; they were created using bearskin for the soles, deer hiding for the top boards, and a tree bark netting. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like modern socks. The coat, belt, leggings and loincloth were constructed of vertical strips of leather sewn together with sinew. His belt had a fanny pack like pouch sewn to it that contained a plethora of useful items including a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl and a dried fungus.

The initial autopsy shown in the documentary missed out on a lot of things that could help attribute the real cause of death. One big thing glossed over is the fact that his body structure was made up in the way where he was used to climbing up high altitudes. His joints in his knees and ankles were enthesopathy, which means the tendons and bones were connected together. This led to great pain and swelling of the joints. (Gostner 2011: 5) The problem is most commonly associated with people who put extra strain on tendons, such as hikers, mountain climbers, and runners. Different types of pollen, some which can only be found high up in the mountains at 2,400m, with a few others only found near 1,200m were found coating his lungs and food in his stomach. All the samples point to him living in the general area of Five pollen samples were taken and in the five ingesta samples background pollen is dominated by alder, birch, hazel, hop-hornbeam, pine, and spruce. Samples have been distinguished by high pine and spruce values, indicating a coniferous forest ecosystem dominated by these two plants, which is the characteristic vegetation of this inner alpine area. Another food sample was taken, dominated by hop-hornbeam, hazel and birch, suggesting a warm, leafy forest typical in the Vinschgau valley and the lower Schnals valley, which are located south and southeast of his discovery. (Müller 2003: 3)

At the time of discovery, it wasn’t known, but Otzi had become the oldest human ever discovered that had tattoos. Before his discovery, tattoos were thought to have been developed in Asia, used by the Austronesian people. On Ötzi’s back, dark marks had been found as early as September 20, 1991. By 1992, other tattoos have been discovered. Most were spread across the loins and legs in the form of groups of parallel vertical lines. Two circular crosses also occurred, one inside the right knee, the other near the left ankle's outer malleolus. TIn 1992 and 1993, the first articles and analyzes were written by L. Capasso, K. Spindler; but the images misled all, often distorted the tattoos measurements. It was not until 1995 that a detailed inventory and realistic tattoos by the Swedish doctor Torstein Sjøvold appeared. The report also revealed the existence on his right calf of two additional tattoos, identified by infrared photographs taken on August 13, 1993. Spindler, Capasso and other scientists rejected any cosmetic ideas or purpose for Ötzi's tattoos and supported the therapeutic theory. Two points go in this direction: the placement of tattoos on areas usually hidden by the fabric and the simple and repeated design that seems to exclude a decorative and/or figurative feature. The Austrians noticed that the average osteoarthritic lesions of Ötzi affected areas where tattoos were carried out: lumbar, knees, and ankles. Since the five groups of tattooed features on the calves could obviously not match articular pain, Austrians and Italians suggested an attempt to treat a muscle-type disorder such as curvature, contracture, or tearing. In 1998, under the guidance of Léopold Dorfer, the Austrian team called in acupuncture experts who found that nine were similar to Chinese acupuncture points among the 15 classes of traits tattooed to Ötzi. This topographical contiguity would cause the puncturing of Ötzi tattoos to be regarded as the acupuncture's direct ancestor. A few months after these two papers were written, two members of the Austrian group changed their findings somewhat, this time thinking that Ötzi's tattoos were possibly reference points for a species of prehistoric acupuncture. (Renaut 2004: 1-10)

The items found with Otzi led archeologists to believe that before he died he held a certain position of power. He had an ornate copper axe which was very unusual around this time. To order to represent those in control, Tribes had used copper weapons or tools. It was later discovered after testing hair samples that Otzi had high amounts of arsenic and copper particles stuck to his hair, making it much more likely he was a metalworker of some kind, or at least knew the basics of metalsmithing. (Wierer 2018: 1-5) With a medium to high level of skill, he was able to resharpen his tools. Traces of wear show he was a right-hander. Most of the toolkit's instruments had entered their final stage of usefulness, exhibiting intensive use, mostly from crop operation, resharpening, and breaks. Otzi apparently had no exposure to chert for quite some time, which during his last hectic days must have been troublesome, preventing him from restoring and integrating his weapons, particularly his arrows. Freshly designed blade tools without any wear indicate intended research that he never completed, probably discouraged by the events that caused him to return to the mountains where a Southern Alpine archer killed him.

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