11 May


Perhaps  the  most  remarkable of all naturally  mummified  bodies  was discovered  in 1991, emerging  from  a melting  glacier in the  Tyrolean Alps  near  the  current  border  between  Italy  and  Austria.  Thought to be the oldest  mummy  in the world,  this Neolithic  hunter  was dubbed the  Iceman.  Radiocarbon dating  indicated  that  the  body  was  about 5,100  to   5,300 years  old.   The   Iceman   was  about   159 cm  (5  feet, 2.5 inches)  tall,  between  45 and  50 years  old,  tattooed, arthritic, and infested  with  parasitic  worms.  Analysis  of pollen  associated  with  the body,  indicated  that  he died in the spring or early summer.  The tools and  weapons  found  with  the  Iceman  included  an  axe,  a  dagger,  a bow,  a  quiver  made  of  animal  skins,  arrows,  and  articles  for  fire- making.  Because the axe and dagger were made of copper  rather  than bronze  and  his  hair  contained  high  levels of  copper  and  arsenic,  he might have been a coppersmith. His clothing included skins from eight different  animal  species, including  goat  and deerskins,  a cape made of woven grasses, shoes made  of calf skin, and  a bearskin  hat.  Analysis of the  contents  of his intestines  indicated  that  his last  meal  included meat (probably  ibex and venison), along with various grains and other plant  foods.

At first investigators  thought that the Iceman had died of a fall, or the cold, but closer examination  of the body revealed that a flint arrow- head had lodged in his shoulder.  In addition  to shattering  the scapula the  arrow  must  have  torn  through   nerves  and  major  blood  vessels and paralyzed the left arm. Because of the presence of defensive wounds on  his  hands  and  traces  of  blood  from  several  individuals  on  the Iceman’s  weapons,  researchers  suggest that  he died in a violent  fight with several men.

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