How is the dating of a German man

Glacier mummy Ötzi

Chance helps

On Thursday, September 19, 1991, the couple Erika and Helmut Simon made a discovery. On the descent from the Fineilspitze you cross a snow field on the Tisenjoch off the marked route. Suddenly they see that the head, shoulders and part of the back of a human corpse protrude from the ice.

The two hikers mistake the body for a recently injured mountaineer and inform the landlord of a nearby hut. He notifies the gendarmerie to rescue the dead.

A day later, a handful of people climb up to the Tisenjoch to prepare for the rescue. None of them can even begin to guess how old the corpse actually is.

During their first rescue attempts, they damage the corpse's hips and thighs. An ancient ax that can be found near him is temporarily brought to the gendarmerie in Sölden.

Thus, the very object disappears first that would make dating the find easier. Someone is tearing off a piece of their leg clothing. His birch bark vessel, which had survived the millennia, breaks.

Although the exact age of the deceased in the ice is not yet known, a real stream of visitors is already making the pilgrimage to the site to marvel at, photograph and film the corpse.

Among them are the two extreme mountaineers Hans Kammerlander and Reinhold Messner, who are currently on their tour of South Tyrol. Messner is the first to estimate the age of this perfectly preserved mummy to be more than 2000 years.

In the focus of science

A few days later the mummy "Ötzi" is baptized and taken to the Innsbruck Institute for Prehistory and Protohistory. Under the direction of archeology professor Konrad Spindler, initial investigations are carried out that confirm Messner's theory - and even expand it by several millennia.

The copper ax is the decisive clue. Professor Spindler dates the age of the corpse to around 5300 years. Ötzi is therefore the oldest mummy ever found.

In more than 600 individual investigations, scientists are now getting to the bottom of the life of the glacier mummy: When he died, Ötzi was around 46 years old, 1.60 meters tall, weighed 50 kilograms and was size 38.

He had signs of wear on his spine and knee joints, as well as a frozen toe, as we know it from extreme mountaineers today.

His health was not in the best of times during his lifetime. Massive calcifications of the main artery in the abdomen and the arteries supplying the brain indicate metabolic disorders and advanced age. He also suffered from whipworms. These intestinal parasites usually cause severe diarrhea.

Equipped for a life in the mountains

The personal belongings of the glacier man are also carefully examined: the cloak made of grass, his trousers, his belt and belt pouch made of calfskin, the flint, a birch bark vessel, a dagger with a pocket, a bow stick, cords made of drilled grass and the framework of a backpack made of hazel sticks.

Not to forget his mountain boots, which were stuffed with grass to protect against the cold.

Particularly valuable: a completely preserved quiver full of arrows and a copper ax. With this ax, the man from the Stone Age caused a surprise to the scientists. Until then, it was thought that the casting of copper blades would not be invented until 1000 years later.

The glacier man carried everything with him that was necessary to survive in the mountains. This also included replacement materials such as leather straps and tendons. The dagger and ax were mainly used as tools.

So he was able to repair his equipment himself or to make a new bow. With the birch bark vessel, he was able to transport the embers from the morning fire, wrapped airtight in maple leaves. Because without a fire a night in the mountains could quickly end fatally.

In the footsteps of the Stone Age man

Where did the ice man come from? Did he rise from the north or from the south? His stone tools at least come from the south, from a prehistoric quarry east of Lake Garda.

Among the plant fragments on the mummy's clothes, botanists were able to identify mosses that only grow in valleys south of the Alps.

Today scientists are certain that he spent the last months of his life in the South Tyrolean Schnalstal. As a good mountaineer, he could reach the Tisenjoch from there in just a few hours.

During Ötzi's lifetime, people lived in villages in the valleys. His contemporaries lived from raising cattle and engaged in active trade. Their trade routes must have led across the Alps. Numerous archaeological excavations found identical materials on both sides of the Alps.

It is still not clear what role Ötzi played during his lifetime. Was he a warrior? Bow and arrow, ax and knife could well have been part of the standard equipment back then.

Maybe he was also a copper specialist. This raw material and its processing must have meant a certain prestige. Only high-ranking village members had access to this material.

It was also very time-consuming to process copper. After all, it has to be melted at over 1000 degrees. A possible indication of this is the high heavy metal content in Ötzi's lungs.

But maybe he was just a shepherd who roamed the Alps with his flock of sheep to let them graze on the lush alpine pastures of the rear Ötztal.

The oldest murder case in history

The death of the glacier man remains an eternal mystery. In 2001, the scientists discovered a shadow in Ötzi's left shoulder on the X-ray images. They identify a stone arrowhead below the seventh costal arch.

Together with the cut on the hand and the blood on clothes and weapons that did not come from him, the next sensation was perfect: Ötzi was murdered.

The arrow hit the man from behind and pierced the shoulder blade. The bullet only stopped shortly before the lungs. Pathologists believe that it is a typical injury when someone falls to the ground and the opponent shoots their weapon in the victim's back.

It seems unlikely that Ötzi would make it to the mountains with this injury.

So it is possible that he was not too far from where he was later found on the run when it caught him. On the way he had lost his utensils and had to reorganize on the mountain. He was making new arrows and carving a new bow. He must have lost a lot of blood from the injury and was very weak.

It was probably night, Ötzi wanted to make a fire, which is essential for survival in the mountains at night. But he didn't succeed. Ötzi, at the age of 46, an old man at the time, was exhausted and finally died of exhaustion in the freezing cold.

Why he had to fight and flee, whether he was alone or in a group, and who his murderers were - we will probably never know. This is one of the eternal secrets of the glacier man from Tisenjoch.