CNN

Frozen moss reveals fatal final journey of 5,300-year-old ice mummy

Oct 31, 2019, 6:59 AM
A statue representing Otzi the Tyrolean Iceman, discovered in 1991 in the Italian Schnal Valley gla...
A statue representing Otzi the Tyrolean Iceman, discovered in 1991 in the Italian Schnal Valley glacier, is displayed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.

(CNN) — Fresh clues have emerged about the final journey of a European glacier mummy shot dead by an arrow before his body was preserved in ice for thousands of years.

The latest study, published Wednesday in the journal Plos One, examined “subfossils” of pieces of vegetation that had frozen on or around the 5,300-year-old mummy, known as Otzi the Iceman.

Otzi’s body was frozen in ice until it was discovered by a couple hiking in the North Italian Alps in 1991. Since then, nearly every part of him has been analyzed — from what he may have sounded like, to the contents in his stomach and how he died. For the past 25 years, his mummified body has been a window into early human history, providing a peek into what life in the Alpine region was like during the Copper Age.

This new study offers clues about Otzi’s route up the glacier. Researchers from the University of Glasgow and the University of Innsbruck recovered at least 75 species of bryophytes, non-vascular plants such as mosses and liverworts, that had been preserved in ice with Otzi. Of these, only 30% are believed to be local to the area — meaning the rest were transported to the site of his death from elsewhere.

Researchers believe these non-indigenous plants could have been carried on Otzi’s clothing, or perhaps by the dung of large herbivores like the Alpine Ibex, a type of wild goat.

“They were recovered as mostly small scraps from the ice around him, from his clothes and gear, and even from his alimentary tract,” said Jim Dickson, one of the study’s primary authors, in a press release from the University of Glasgow.

“Those findings prompted the questions: Where did the fragments come from? How, precisely, did they get there? How do they help our understanding of the Iceman?”

Some of these foreign species were identified as mosses that exist today in the lower Schnalstal valley, in the Italian province of South Tyrol — suggesting that Otzi had traveled along the valley on his climb up the glacier, to his final resting place.

One species in particular proved significant. Flat Neckera, which grows in low-altitude woodlands, was found on Otzi’s clothes and inside his gut. This discovery is “as near proof as it is possible to get that the Iceman climbed from south to north up Schnalstal rather than ascending other adjacent valleys,” Dickson said.

These findings corroborate a 2007 study that had examined the pollen content in Otzi’s gut to reconstruct his route. The study had concluded that in his last 33 hours, Otzi had traveled from low-lying areas with “warmth-loving trees” to high-altitude zones, 3,000 meters high.

Researchers over the years have formed a “disaster” theory for his death: in this scenario, Otzi may have returned to his native village from the Alps, only to be met with some kind of conflict that forced him to flee back to the mountains, where he died.

Here’s what we know about Otzi

Since 1998, Otzi and his artifacts have been on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. The Iceman was nicknamed Otzi because he was found in the Otztal Alps of South Tyrol.

Otzi lived between 3100 and 3370 BC. He stood 5 feet 2 inches (1.57 meters) tall and had a slightly muscular build of 110 pounds (50 kg), a narrow and pointed face, tanned and tattooed skin, brown eyes, long dark hair and a shaggy beard. His blood type was O-positive, and he was lactose-intolerant.

He died when he was 46 — which was considered old for the time.

Otzi was crossing the Tisenjoch pass in the Val Senales valley when he was shot in the back with an arrow by a Southern Alpine archer and became naturally preserved in the ice. The arrowhead is still embedded in his left shoulder and was not found until 2001. He would have bled out and died shortly after being shot because the arrow pierced a vital artery. There is also a wound on the back of his head, but that may have occurred when he fell after being struck by the arrow.

A cut on his right hand, indicating hand-to-hand combat, never had a chance to heal before he died. This means that conflict happened before he was shot, perhaps hours or days before, and may have led to the second clash that killed him.

The injury to his right hand would have made it difficult for Otzi to prepare his weapons for another attack. This is most likely why the bow and arrows found with him were unfinished: to replace ones that were lost or damaged in the previous fight.

He was also found with a valuable copper ax, which could have functioned as a weapon and tool, as well as a status symbol.

His clothing was made from leather, hide, braided grass and animal sinews, which would have kept him warm in the cold, wet climate.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2019 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

Today’s Top Stories

CNN

Police in Highland Park, Illinois, respond to a shooting at a Fourth of July event....
Eric Levenson, Adrienne Broaddus, Shawn Nottingham and Brynn Gingras, CNN. Mark Jackson

Police have arrested a ‘person of interest’ after a mass shooting at July 4th parade in Highland Park, Illinois

Robert E. Crimo III, a person of interest in a mass shooting at a parade that left six dead and sent more than two dozen people to hospitals, has been taken into custody near Lake Forest, Illinois, authorities said during a brief news conference. Authorities said Crimo was spotted by a North Chicago officer who […]
1 day ago
People leave Field's shopping centre, after Danish police said they received reports of shooting, i...
Kim Norgaard, Pierre Meilhan and Jorge Engels, CNN

Several people killed in Copenhagen mall shooting, police say

shooting at a mall in Copenhagen has left several people dead, local police said Sunday.
2 days ago
Joseph Petito, father of Gabby Petito, speaks during a news conference on Tuesday, September 28, 20...
Jennifer Henderson, CNN

Florida judge allows lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito’s parents against Brian Laundrie’s parents to proceed

A lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's parents will move forward, a Florida judge ruled Thursday. The lawsuit is against the parents of Brian Laundrie.
5 days ago
Immigration activists rally outside the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC on April 26. Photo credi...
Tierney Sneed and Priscilla Alvarez, CNN

Supreme Court says Biden can end Trump-era ‘Remain in Mexico’ immigration policy

The Supreme Court on Thursday gave President Joe Biden the green light to end the controversial "Remain in Mexico" immigration policy.
5 days ago
Justice Stephen Breyer and President Joe Biden....
Ariane de Vogue, CNN Supreme Court Reporter

Breyer makes it official: He’s leaving the Supreme Court on Thursday at noon

In a letter to President Joe Biden, Breyer said it had been his "great honor" to participate as a judge in the "effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law."
6 days ago
Image of the new summer treat: Ketchup-flavored popsicles (Photo courtesy of French's)...
Zoe Sottile, CNN

The newest, weirdest summer treat is a ketchup-flavored popsicle

A Canadian ketchup brand has launched an unusual twist on a popular summer treat: Ketchup-flavored popsicles.
8 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Tax Harassment...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...
Know Your Script

Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. So what do you need to know about these opioids?
national heart month...
Intermountain Healthcare

National Heart Month: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Make Today to Keep You Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease
Joseph Smith Memorial Building...
Temple Square

The Joseph Smith Memorial Building is an icon of Salt Lake City | Why hosting an event at this beautiful location will make you a hero this year

Here's why hosting an event at the iconic Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City will make you a hero this year.
Frozen moss reveals fatal final journey of 5,300-year-old ice mummy