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Researchers say Italy's 5,000-year-old Iceman died from head trauma, not arrow

Study Reveals That Iceman Otzi Died of Severe Head Trauma

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Blow to head, not arrow, killed Otzi the iceman

 August 28, 2007. Source: The Canadian Press

ROME, Italy (AP) — Researchers studying Iceman, the 5,000-year-old mummy found frozen in the Italian Alps, have come up with a new theory for how he died, saying he died from head trauma, not by bleeding to death from an arrow.

Just two months ago, researchers in Switzerland published an article in the Journal of Archeological Science saying the mummy - also known as Oetzi - had died after the arrow tore a hole in an artery beneath his left collarbone, leading to massive loss of blood, shock and heart attack.

But radiologists, pathologists and other researchers, using new forensic information and CAT scans, said Tuesday they believe the blood loss from the arrow wound only made Oetzi lose consciousness. They believe he died either by hitting his head on a rock when he passed out or because his aggressor attacked him again with a blow to the head.

The researchers presented their findings Monday night at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy in Bolzano, a research institution. The mummy institute was launched in July to co-ordinate research into Oetzi, who is housed in the nearby South Tyrol Archeological Museum.

In a statement Tuesday, the academy said the findings reopened the debate on Oetzi's cause of death, particularly since they took into account the rather unnatural way in which his body was found: face down, with his left arm across his chest.

The researchers believe the Iceman fell over backward but was then turned over onto his stomach by his aggressor who then pulled out the arrow shaft while leaving the arrowhead imbedded in Oetzi's shoulder.

In a paper published in the archeological magazine Germania, the researchers said they had determined Oetzi assumed his final position before rigor mortis set in. They also said based on his good health and equipment found with him, that he belonged to a social class not accustomed to manual labour.

The researchers were: Andreas Lippert, a prehistory professor at the University of Vienna, Dr. Paul Gostner, a radiologist at the Bolzano regional hospital, Dr. Eduard Egarter Vigl, a pathologist at the Bolzano hospital, and Dr. Patrizia Pernter, a radiologist at the hospital.

Oetzi was found in 1991 by accident by a group of hikers. In 2000, his body was temporarily thawed so researchers could take samples to study. They have found his last meal included unleavened bread made of einkorn, a type of wheat, as well as some greens. DNA from the contents of his intestines showed he had also consumed venison as one of his last meals - strengthening the theory that he was a hunter.

While little else is known about Oetzi himself, he was carrying a bow, a quiver of arrows and a copper axe.


Mystery of 5,000 year old glacier mummy solved

Iceman 'Ötzi's' cause of death proved by researcher at the University of Zurich
June 6, 2007. Source: Elsehttp://www.elsevier.com/vier

An Italian-Swiss research team, including Dr. Frank Rühli of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich in Switzerland proved the cause of death of the Iceman (“Ötzi,” 3300 BC) by modern X-ray-based technology. A lesion of a close-to-the-shoulder artery has been found thanks to a CT scan or multislice computed tomography, finally clarifying the world-famous glacier mummy’s cause of death. This scientific work appeared online in the Journal of Archaeological Science, published by Elsevier and will be covered in the German and US issues of National Geographic magazine in July.

The Iceman is a uniquely well-preserved late Neolithic glacier mummy, found in 1991 in South Tyrol at 3,210 meters above sea level. He has undergone various scientific examinations, as human bodies are the best source for the study of life conditions in the past as well as the evolution of today’s diseases.

In 2005, the glacier mummy was reinvestigated in South Tyrol by Dr. F. Rühli from the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, in close collaboration with Dr. Eduard Egarter Vigl of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, as well as Drs. Patrizia Pernter and Paul Gostner from the Department of Radiology at General Hospital Bolzano, by state-of-the-art multislice computed tomography (CT).

Analysis of the CT images showed a lesion of the dorsal wall of the left subclavian artery, the artery underneath the clavicle, caused by an earlier, already-detected arrowhead that remains in the back. In addition, a large haematoma could be visualized in the surrounding tissue. By incorporating historic as well as modern data on the survival ship of such a severe lesion, the scientists concluded that the Iceman died within a short time due to this lesion.

“Such obvious proof of a vascular lesion in a body of this historic age is unique, and it helped to determine the cause of this extraordinary death without a destructive autopsy. We look forward to further investigating the circumstances surrounding the Iceman’s sudden death,” explains Dr. Dr. Rühli.


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Last updated: September 8, 2007