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8 December 2003
Oetzi moves into chilly new home

Oetzi, the 5,000-year-old man found frozen in the Italian Alps, has been given a new home - a refrigerated igloo in Italy, which experts believe will prevent him from losing mass. Officials at the South Tyrol Archaeological Museum in Italy's northern Alto Adige region have built an "igloo" inside the museum out of tiles of ice to keep the Iceman colder and more humid to better preserve his remains.
     The world's oldest and best-preserved mummy, believed to be 5,300 years old, was discovered in 1991 by two German tourists after they strayed from the regular path on a hiking trip up the Italian Alps. Since his remains went on display, the mummy, which currently weighs just over 14kg, has lost about five grams (.175 ounces) of water weight every 24 hours, primarily because the humidity in his refrigerated cell fluctuated from the lights and a viewing window. Experts were able to counteract the loss by exposing him to an artificial humidity treatment every two weeks.
     But with the igloo, that treatment will no longer be necessary, the museum said. The new ice cell keeps a constant temperature of minus 6.12 Celsius (20.98F), and humidity of 99.42 percent. Previously, his cell had a humidity level of 97.12 percent, and the temperature fluctuated slightly. "In this way, the microclimate of the cell is preserved, guaranteeing unvarying conservation conditions," the museum said.
     Oetzi now lies on a glass tabletop, one arm draped across his chest, surrounded by walls of ice blocks. Visitors will be able to take a peek at him through a porthole.

Sources: Ananova (2 December 2003), Associated Press, CNN (4 December 2003)

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