Ötzi, the talking mummy found under the snow of Ötztal Alps

It has been 25 year ago that Ötzi,  the Iceman, was found and from the world of science still arrive news.  The mummy has been found on 19th of September 1991 by two German tourists, Erika and Helmut Simon, during an excursion in the Ötztal Alps on the border between Austria and Italy. Since then a big team of scientists has worked to gain as much information as possible from the Iceman. It is the oldest natural mummy of a Copper Age European man.

The mummy speaks

Doctors from Bolzano hospital carried out regular CT scans that have revealed the timbre of Ötzi’s voice. Francesco Avanzini, phoniatrician at the hospital of Bolzano, said: ‘We do not know the exact size of Ötzi’s vocal folds and this is a big limit. The only images taken many years ago in Innsbruck are not clear and were taken with an endoscope, a very invasive method that cannot be adopted any more. We have once again assumed the size of his vocal folds  to be the same of a normal person of the same height, because Ötzi was a Sapiens sapiens too’. Currently, they have found five sounds that match the Italian vowels.

Ötzi’s relatives

Medical University of Innsbruck carried out a DNA test on Ötzi. Scientists analysed the DNA of over 3,700 Austrian Tyrolean anonymous donors and found 19 people who shared with Ötzi a particular genetic mutation called G-L91.

Health problems and physical flaws

Ötzi was not fine. That is clear from the results of a check-up that showed a degeneration in the joints, hardening of the arteries, gallstones. High levels of arsenic were found in Ötzi’s body has led to speculate that he was involved in metals and copper smelting. Also from a physical point of view the results are not good. Ötzi did not have the twelfth pair of ribs and wisdom teeth. Finally, the gap between incisors is very wide.

First acupuncture treatments

On the body of the mummy there are  61 tattoos. The signs are likely to be made by cutting the skin and then rubbing coal on it. Tattoos cover Ötzi’s entire body. This is the oldest evidence of acupuncture treatments until now.

What did Ötzi eat?

In his stomach have been found traces of  steinbock meat and wheat. Close to him there were also mushrooms and berries. The analysis carried out on the body shows that the man did not digest his meal because a severe blow to the head killed him before he could. On his left shoulder was also found an arrow wound that is still visible.

Ötzi’s curse

Research on the  mummy  went on for years and some ugly incidents happened between 2004 and 2005 that have created the legend of a curse. The German tourist who had found  Ötzi’s body  died buried by an avalanche; the reporter who recorded the find died of tumour; the chief of forensic experts died in a tragic accident while he was going to a conference about the mummy.

Ötzi’ museum

Thanks to the objects found near the mummy it has been possible to understand his story, his habits and his lifestyle. You can see all this objects (the bow, the arrows, the copper axe and the dagger) and have more information at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano. There you can also see a copy of the man promoted by the exhibition ‘Heavy Metal’.

3540