Abstract: Otzi the Iceman, 5.300 year old Alpine “Mummy” and Forensic Science

Lecturer: Patrick Hunt

“Otzi the Iceman”, a 5,300 year old Copper Age / Neolithic man was discovered in 1991 preserved in the Similaun Pass of the Otztal Alps at 10,500 ft. between Italy and Austria.

Since 1991, extensive ongoing scientific investigations indicate that he is unique because he is practically an “archaeological site” in himself. Unlike any other human remains this old discovered to date, remarkably nearly everything of “Otzi” is preserved, including his clothing, tools, gear, weapons and even his last meals in his body. Amazing forensic science has recovered much detail about his life, the material technology he carried including a rare and precious copper axe, vital medical and bioarchaeological data including his DNA and full genome record, where he lived in the prehistoric Val Senales and reconstructions of how he was killed and even possible scenarios of causes.  Not only did “Otzi” treat his own parasites, showing prehistoric human medicine, but he used and carried over 10 different tree and plant products that survived in his glacial context. Even his weapons demonstrate early archery using spiraling arrows, suggesting prehistoric knowledge of aerodynamic stabilizing technology. For those fascinated with forensic and C.S.I. investigation, “Otzi” may be the “coldest case” on record.

The lecturer (whose research has been sponsored by National Geographic) has written extensively on Otzi and has studied Otzi’s tools and paleobotanical specimens in Bolzano, Italy where Otzi “resides” frozen, as well as in the Otztal Alps where he lived and was found; the lecturer was also broadcast on the 2011 “Iceman Murder Mystery” film from National Geographic / NOVA on PBS in October, 2011; was also broadcast on the prior film, “Death of the Iceman” on National Geographic Explorer TV in 2008.



 

Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic:

1.  Patrick Hunt, Alpine Archaeology (2007) Ariel Books, New York, esp. chs. 1-2

2. “Iceman Murder Mystery” NOVA / National Geographic Documentary, Oct. 26, 2011

3. “Death of the Iceman” National Geographic Explorer TV Special, 2008

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Thomas Howe is an architectural historian with a background in classical archaeology, art and architectural history and architectural theory and design. His dissertation on the Origin of the Doric... Read More

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