Okay, so this post has very little to do with food. But it does have to do with travel, super cool things, and medicinal mushrooms so I guess it fits the bill!
While I would love to say that I had the chance to see Ötzi in person, I only leaned about him by chance after returning home to Canada while researching local wild mushrooms. It’s a darned shame, I know!
Anyway, for those of you visiting Italy in the near future make sure to visit the Ötzi the Iceman exhibit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.
Who the heck is Ötzi the Iceman?
Ötzi is a well-preserved glacier mummy who lived during the Copper Age sometime between 3359 and 3105 BCE.
Ötzi’s body was discovered accidentally by German hikers along the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley glacier in September 1991. Yikes! What would you do if you stumbled across a 5,300-year-old corpse?
The area where Ötzi was found is known as the Ötztal Alps, which was how the Iceman got his name. However, Ötzi also goes by many other names! Because the Ötztal Alps are located near the Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch along the border between Austria and Italy, Ötzi is also known as:
- the Similaun Man,
- Man from Hauslabjoch,
- the Tyrolean Iceman,
- Homo tyrolensis,
- Frozen Fritz, or
- the Hauslabjoch mummy.
What’s so cool about Ötzi?
Aside from being Europe’s oldest known natural human mummy… Wait! What am I talking about? He’s a naturally occurring glacial mummy! How freakin’ cool is that??? Okay, okay but there’s more!
Because Ötzi’s belongings were excellently preserved along with him in the glacier, scientist were able to learn a truckload of new things about how people lived during the Copper Age.
Among Ötzi’s possessions were two pieces of birch polypore (birch fungus) threaded onto hide strips. Since the fungus has a long history of being used for it’s medicinal benefits, it’s assumed that Ötzi might have been using it as a sort of ancient Neolithic ‘First Aid Kit’ to combat lyme disease which is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected deer ticks.
How did Ötzi die?
Poor Ötzi experienced a grizzly death at the hands of a bowman. That’s right, those German tourists hiking around the Alps happened across a 5300 year old homicide!
What led to Ötzi’s murder remains unclear but scientists are busy tying to solve the mystery:
Curious facts about Ötzi the Iceman
1. The Iceman has living relatives. In fact, research has indicated that Ötzi has at least 19 genetic relatives living in Austria’s Tyrol region;
2. Ötzi wasn’t on his game. After giving the Iceman a full-body health check-up, scientists discovered that Ötzi suffered from worn joints, hardened arteries, gallstones, a nasty growth on his little toe (possibly caused by frostbite), he was lactose intolerant and probably Lyme disease;
3. For someone with so many living relatives thousands of years later, researchers suspect that Ötzi was infertile. He also had a gap between his two front teeth, lacked both wisdom teeth and was missing a 12th pair of ribs.
4. The Iceman had tats! Numbering over 50 in total, Ötzi’s remains were covered from head to foot in Copper Age tattoos. Unlike modern-age tattoos, Ötzi’s were made by making fine cuts in the skin and then rubbing in charcoal. The result was a series of lines and crosses mostly located on parts of the body that are prone to injury or pain, such as the joints and along the back.
5. Ötzi the Iceman’s stomach contents included 30 different types of pollen. According to scientists, Ötzi ate his final meal – grains and meat from an ibex (a species of nimble-footed wild goat) – just a few short hours before his grizzly death.
Want to see Ötzi the Iceman in person?
Visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy where Ötzi and his artifacts have been exhibited since 1998.
- 5 Surprising Facts About Otzi the Iceman, by
- Iceman Murder Mystery 2011. PBS Nova.
- Iceman Was a Medical Mess, by Julia Galef
- The Iceman. South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.