Case Study: Otzi the Iceman

On 19 September 1991, a German couple were hiking along the Austrian-Italian border when they stumbled across a shrivelled corpse. The cadaver appeared to be in fairly good condition, or at least it was not skeletonised, with some soft tissue still remaining. The body was collected and analysed.

The corpse was of a man of a few inches over five feet, with tattoos in numerous places and his eyes, ears and organs still present. He was also around 5,300 years old. Named Otzi the Iceman, his body was still clothed and surrounded by a variety of possessions, including a flint dagger, an unstrung bow with unfinished arrows, a copper axe, and a deerskin quiver. It is believed that Otzi died from exposure to the cold weather or sustained a fatal injury, after which his remains were preserved by the conditions.

The body of the Iceman has been subjected to numerous analytical techniques, including X-rays and CAT scans. The data from these tests has been used to reconstruct the image of what Otzi probably looked like in life. Mitochondrial DNA analysis has also been carried out, providing clues to possible genetic infertility. The incredibly preservation of the Iceman, the oldest natural mummy of the Copper Age, has allowed for forensic techniques to be used to give a great insight into a period of time so long ago.

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