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The Iceman "Ötzi"


The Man from the Glacier

More than 5,000 years ago, a man ascended the icy heights of the Schnal Valley glacier and died there. In 1991, his mortal remains - together with his clothing and equipment, mummified and frozen - were accidentally discovered. This was an archaeological sensation providing a unique glimpse into the life of a man of the Chalcolithic Period who was travelling at high altitudes.

After many years of investigation by highly-specialized research teams, the mummy recovered from the glacier and the accompanying artefacts are now accessible to the public in the South Tyrolean Archaeological Museum.

We are fascinated, astonished, but also strangely touched to meet a witness of our own past. The fate of an individual human being deprives the "story" of its anonymity - and it comes alive in our imaginations.

The South Tyrol's Museum of Archaeology is now world-famous as the repository of the Similaun Ice Man, often referred to as and of the various accoutrements that were found along with him.


Oetzi 20 A special exhibition entitled "Ötzi²º" at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano to celebrate Ötzi's, the glacier mummy, 20th birthday.

2001: Ötzi's 10th birthday

Oetzi The news of a sensational archaeological discovery went around the world on 19th September, 1991 following the discovery of the mummified remains of a 5,300 year-old man on the Hauslabjoch saddle which marks the border between the Schnalstal and Ötztal valleys. It was released from the glacier after five millenniums weighing 15 kilograms and was 1.60 metres tall. Ötzi, as he soon became called, proved to be unique archaeological find which caused scientists to partially rewrite prehistory.

Various prehistoric places of worship have been found dating from the Bronze Age which were also used as burial sites, though what makes Ötzi unique is that he was discovered in the spot where he was overcome by sudden death while still in his prime, along with the objects which he carried with him 5,300 years ago to survive in the harsh climate and terrain of the high mountains.

Ötzi and his belongings were examined for six years in the Institute of Anatomy at Innsbruck. Physicians and microbiologists, anthropologists and archaeologists thronged around him to gain valuable insight into daily life during the Bronze Age. The "Man from the Glacier" was finally transferred to Bolzano in 1998, where he is preserved in the South Tyrolean Archaeological Museum.

Further samples were taken from the mummy in 2000, which are expected to provide more detailed information about his origins, the cause of death and his DNA structure. For example, a tiny sample of his tooth enamel which is being studied at the Swiss Institute of Technology at Zürich is expected to reveal where the 5,300 year-old man grew up, at Bolzano and in London a research team is analysing his DNA, while in Verona the cause of death is being researched.

The results will was made public in September 2002 during a scientific congress at Bolzano and over 100 scientists have already registered for the event. The findings will be collected in an anthology and in addition, a scientific documentary film will be produced by the BBC and the Discovery Channel.

The facts and data may make dull reading for the less scientifically-minded, though those who wish to see the Bronze Age man's mummified remains in real life can visit the Archaeological Museum where he is preserved in an air-conditioned, controlled atmosphere compartment, while his belongings are exhibited in separate showcases.