| 3 November 2011
Oetzi's state of health and death are no more a mystery
There is now broad agreement on the circumstances of Oetzi's death. Around 100 experts on mummies from nearly every single continent gathered recently for the '2nd Bolzano Mummy Congress' held at the European Academy of Bolzano, with the aim of discussing any diseases he might have been suffering from and the events surrounding his death.
From the moment of his discovery 20 years ago, Oetzi - the 5,000-year-old glacier mummy - has been puzzling the scientific research community, though little by little he is also revealing many of his secrets.
Albert Zink, Head of the Institute for Mummy Research at EURAC, reports the circumstances of the Iceman's death: "He felt safe enough to take a break, and settled down to a copious meal. While thus resting, he was attacked, shot with an arrow and left for dead." There was no evidence pointing to a possible burial as some scientists have suggested in the past. "The position of the mummified body with his arm pointing obliquely upwards, the lack of any piles of stones or other features which often accompany burial sites, runs counter to the burial theory," he continues.
But there is still the problem of what was Oetzi doing up there, at a height of 3,200 metres? At the Bolzano Congress, the Innsbruck based scientists Andreas Putzer, Daniela Festi and Klaus Oeggl refuted the theory according to which Oetzi was a shepherd who had taken his herd to pastures high up in the mountains to graze during the summer months. According to the latest archaeological and botanical findings, there was no seasonal migration of cattle during the Chalcolithic period, the Copper Stone Age. The so called transhumance did not start until around 1500 BCE. Oetzi was not on the run. On the contrary, between 30 and 120 minutes before his death he had settled down to a hearty meal, as evidenced by stomach samples.
Innsbruck Botanist Klaus Oeggl was able to detect pollen from the Hop-hornbeam in Oetzi's stomach. Oeggl had, some time ago, discovered a high concentration of such pollen in Oetzi's bowels and had concluded that Oetzi had actually died in the spring.
Nanotechnology used on a brain sample at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich was able to confirm a further assumption: Oetzi did in fact suffer trauma to his skull and brain. This alone would have been sufficient to cause death, but was no doubt at least a contributory factor along with his arrow wound. What is still unclear is whether he incurred the trauma through a fall or a blow to the head.
Edited from ScienceDaily (25 October 2011)
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