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12 December 2017
Oetzi the Iceman gets the big screen treatment

There can be no more famous a person in European archaeology than 'Oetzi the Iceman'. The remains of this 5,300 year old Alpine hunter have been at the centre of an unprecedented degree of attention and examination since a German couple first stumbled across him in the ice of the southern Tyrol, on the borders of northern Italy and southern Austria. In 1991.
     Now a German film maker has dramatized his life into a feature film. The film fictionalises Oetzi's travels through the Otztal Alps and speculated on how and why he eventually died, to lie preserved in the ice for thousands of years.
     Despite Oetzi's existing vast popularity with tourists, ever since he was displayed under controlled conditions in a special museum in Bolzano, northern Italy, the museum is bracing itself for an even higher number of visitors following the film's release. Even though there has been some criticism from some academic quarters, the film attempts to show how Oetzi might have lived and hunted. They have even gone to the extent of making the actor who portrays him speak in a pre-Roman language called Rhaetic, which it is believed was spoken in that area at the time.
     Despite what will undoubtedly lead to more interest in this intriguing figure there are serious concerns that the interested generated could lead to Oetzi's destruction. This increased attention by both the public and scientists are having an effect on the controlled conditions in which he is preserved.
     The museum is having to conduct a constant process of hydration to the remains, keeping it cool at the same time. The fear is that microbes and bacteria could be introduced during the process and the forensic scientist in charge of the process, Oliver Peschel, is so concerned that he is quoted as saying "If we're not extremely careful Oetzi will go bad on us". Despite these dire concerns scientists are far from finished examining him!

Edited from The Guardian (3 December 2017)

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