Otzi the Iceman: The World's Coldest Case Finally Solved

Fagjun | Published 2017-04-28 05:31

Scientists have finally found what caused the death of Otzi the Iceman.

On September 19, 1991, a pair of German tourists found the naturally mummified remains of a man in the Otztal Alps. The tourists thought that these were the remains of a mountaineer that had recently died, but further examination revealed that the mummy belonged to a man who died around 5,300 years ago.

The mummy was eventually known as Otzi the Iceman, after the name of the alps where he was found. Otzi gained widespread renown due to the state of his corpse, which the ice on the alps had partially preserved. Scientists extensively examined the mummy, and they were able to make numerous discoveries about the man's life. Scientists found out how old he was when he died, where he spent his childhood and adulthood, and what his last meal was.

Otzi was 45 to 46 years old at the time of his death. He spent his childhood near what is now the village of Feldthurns in northern Italy, then lived further up north later on. He likely had a few slices of what might have been bacon a couple of hours before he died.

Scientists even found that Otzi was lactose intolerant, and that he has a number of living relatives in Austria.

We know these things and more about Otzi through numerous scientific examinations on the corpse. One thing that scientists weren't able to tell for certain, however, was the cause of Otzi's death.

Murder, Sacrifice, or Accident?

This was how Otzi was found in the Otztal Alps.
[Photo by VaXzine via Flickr]

There were a few theories about what killed Otzi the Iceman. One theory stated that Otzi was perhaps the victim of an ambush, or even the victim of ritual sacrifice. X-rays and scans found that Otzi had suffered an arrow wound in his shoulder before he died, prompting theories that Otzi died of blood loss. Otzi's skull also showed signs of blunt force trauma, which led some to theorize that the cause of death was a blow to the head.

New findings, however, point to less sinister possibilities. Scientists now say that Otzi the Iceman, true to his nickname, simply froze to death.

What Killed Otzi the Iceman?

A team of scientists analyzed the scans and x-rays of Otzi's remains once again and came up with their conclusions. They found that Otzi's arrow wound ruptured a blood vessel but caused no significant tissue damage. In fact, all he may have lost was half a cup of blood, which relatively isn't a lot. Otzi may have been extremely uncomfortable due to the wound, but it wasn't enough to kill him.

The team also examined the signs of trauma on Otzi's head. Apparently, Otzi's head wounds are more consistent with accidental falls, not murderous intent.

Otzi the Iceman is a classic cold case, in more ways than one. Scientists have thought that they have found the cause of death a number of times before, and they were certain that they were correct. However, new analyses come along and give a new perspective. Perhaps in a few years, a new team of scientists will come forward and put forth a different conclusion. For now, though, there's enough evidence that Otzi simply succumbed to nature.

Hey! Where are you going?? Subscribe!

Get weekly science updates in your inbox!