Preserved in time – Otzi – the iceman


oetzi or otzi as he was found


There’s many ways a body can be preserved.  One is by peat, as we have seen with the bog bodies.  Another is by ice – which proved  the case with the oldest frozen body ever  found – 5,300 years old!. This body found high in the mountains between the borders of Italy and the Austrian has become known as Oetzi or Otzi because he was found in the Otztal area. 


Otzi the iceman waiting


He was found by two hikers in 1991.   His body was lay face down with his hat near him and his axe leaning against a rock.  By analysing the ice that he was preserved in scientists were able not only to pinpoint when he died but even what season he died in by the pollen contained in the ice – which was Autumn.


the arrow wound


It was  first thought  that Otzi was a shepherd, returning home with his herd , that he had gotten into a fight and fled to the mountains and died of injuries to his chest.  But later  tests revealed that Otzi had actually died between the months of March and June (Spring) because of unusual pollen found in his stomachs contents.

Further tests also revealed that the snow around Otzi had melted at least once, displacing the objects around him and that the ribs had been damaged after death, not before.


the iceman's axe


In 2001 his body was X rayed again, this time scientist discovered a stone axe head embedded in the man’s shoulder.  So the latest theory is that Otzi was attacked, he ran off, and someone shot him in the back with an arrow.  He managed to pull out the arrow, but the head lay embedded in his shoulder.  Weak from his injuries he lay down and died in the mountains.


a reconstruction of what Otzi might have looked like


Still more further tests revealed that Otzi may have been a Copper smelter owing to levels of copper particles found in his hair, but some still hold to the shepherd theory as the man was of sturdy robust build.

Otzi’s body still holds secrets, though it is thought that he was a man in his 40s, about 5ft 4 in height..  A reconstruction of the man


Oetzi tattoo, one of many


Otzi has several tattoos on his body (59 in total!). His hand had been tattooed with a kind of ink made of soot, and perhaps these were not merely for decoration – they may have served a therapeutic or even medicinal purpose (see here)

Read other facts and the curse of the iceman here

Otzi website with close up images including  his tattoos here

Detailed descriptions of Otzi’s possessions and images here

Please don’t be offended if I don’t answer your posts for a couple of days, I am away for a few days so have scheduled quite a few posts.  I promise to reply to any comments when I get back.

24 thoughts on “Preserved in time – Otzi – the iceman

    1. Glad your’e enjoying them as much as me Leslie, it is fascinating when you think about the elements preserving the body. We’ve had water (ice) and we’ve had earth (well, peat) next we shall have air….. watch this space!

  1. this was really neat. we learned about otzi in class and i just had to do some more researc on him!!

    1. Thanks Kathryn – you’ve remeinded me that I haven’t done a post about any of these preserved bodies for quite a while! Look out for the next one very soon – thanks for visiting its appreciated 🙂

    2. Yer we did The Iceman in class too we have to do a test on him so i’m making sure i know everything ha ha. I think i have everything i need to know for the test but i’m just so fascinated i had to keep learning more and more 🙂

      1. Thanks Savvy, I really must continue this category as there’s quite an interest in it. We need more bodies! I’ll have to get out there and dig some up myself Lol – there must be loads which haven’t been discovered in bogs and under ice and even in the desert!

  2. i never heard of this until my humanities teacher (who is also my home group teacher) brought it up. we are studying oetzi right now as i type this. we are searching for answers, im hoping my teacher isnt looking over my shoulder… but this website gave me alot of information and details and i hope i get good marks!! thank you!

    1. Thank YOU Taylor for visiting and commenting:-) Theres something so fascinating and endearing about this little man isn’t there?

      Here’s a small article on Oetzi’s last supper – its very interesting!
      This is a great site for mummies of all kinds Taylor!

      Good luck in your studies Taylor:-)

    2. same here my home group teacher is also my humanities i never knew studying this would be so facinatimng

  3. You said they found him laying face down with his hat near him….but there’s no indication as to why he was naked. Obviously he was as he was removed from the ice with no clothes on. Did they find other clothing near him or not?
    Thanks for the web site…..I always enjoy updates on Otzi.

  4. Sorry for the late reply Cathy, I’m a bit late with my comments and trying to catch up. Regarding Otzi: perhaps his clothes rotted away, though having said that, Tollund man was found with a leather cap on and a belt (I think) and definitely a noose around his neck. He was sacrificed though or murdered. I know that tools were found but I don’t know about any other clothes. One things for sure – I really need to update my bog bodies 🙂

  5. It is so amazing how a whole body can be so well preserved i mean even his organs were preserved that is truly amazing. I really can’t get my head around it, it’s just simply amazing !!!!!!!!!

    🙂 🙂

    1. I remember when I first discovered that the bog bodies existed. I just couldn’t get over how a body could last all that time! Still have that fascination to this day -)

  6. I watched the Nova show on the ice man last night. First, I don’t think he went out without having flint tips on the arrows. I think the person who killed him took the tips on the arrows, because they were probably valuable, difficult to make, and not particularly identiable. Perhaps one person or several people within the ice man’s tribe produced arrow tips for all the hunters within the tribe, so no one would realize that the killer had Otzi’s arrow tips. Second, I wonder whether Otzi was killed by mistake in a hunting accident. Perhaps the reason why the killer didn’t take the valuable ax was that the killer was flustered and forgot the that Otzi had the ax or the killer didn’t realize Otzi had an ax with him. I suppose it’s also possible, like they said on the TV show, that the killer didn’t want to be found out and that’s why the killer left the ax behind. Perhaps the reason why Otzi was murdered is that he stole someone else’s arrow tips and the person whom Otzi stole the tips from hunted Otzi down, killed Otzi and the killer then took his own arrow tips back.

    1. It is indeed a mystery Diane – and I think this one shall run and run! It’s great to speculate, I doubt the mystery will ever be cleared up though 😦

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