Meet The Iceman – 5,300-Year-Old And Best Naturally Preserved Human Being Ever Found

Meet The Iceman – 5,300-Year-Old And Best Naturally Preserved Human Being Ever Found

 In 1991, when German tourists Helmut and Erika Simon went hiking in the Ötztal Alps on the Italian-Austrian border, they hadn’t been expecting to make one of the significant discoveries in human history. The Simons found a Chalcolithic (Copper Age) mummified human frozen deep in a glacier at an elevation of 3,210 meters (10,530 ft). [1] At first, they thought he was a recently deceased hiker whose remains hadn’t been found. However, upon extraction of the man and his items with a small jackhammer and ice axes, researchers discovered he was estimably 5,300 years old and would have lived between 3350 and 3100 B.C [2].

Since he was found in the Ötztal Alps, he was named Otzi, also called the “Ice Man”, and he’s Europe’s oldest known natural mummy. Standing at 1.65 meters tall and weighing about 110 pounds, Otzi was said to have died at the age of 46. His preserved hair contained copper particles and arsenic, indicative of a person who practiced copper smelting. 

He was discovered because the glacier that had buried him for so long melted well enough five millenia later, no thanks to global warming.

When Otzi was first found, researchers assumed he’d fallen off a cliff or frozen in the extreme temperatures of the Alps. However, ten years after he was discovered, in 2001, X-ray analysis revealed an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder and a corresponding tear in his cloth. [3] Researchers posited that The Iceman most likely died due to blood loss from a wound sustained in combat. Another theory said he fell from a higher elevation and died from a fatal wound to the head.

His body and a naturalistic construction are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano. Otzi’s preserved mummy has been thoroughly and extensively studied, analyzed, observed and it has ultimately provided a wealth of information about the life of Copper Age Europeans.

Facts about Otzi 

Fossils around the site of his discovery revealed that Otzi wore woven grass for clothes and waterproof shoes made with deer hide (top) and bearskin (soles). He also wore a loincloth, leggings, a belt, and a coat made of leather and sinew. Some of the items found on the Iceman were a copper ax, 14 arrows made with dogwood, and a chert-bladed knife. 

Below are a few other need-to-know facts about Otzi the Iceman. [4]

Otzi had a host of health issues

Life in the Copper Age must have been really tough without medical advancement. Extensive studies on Otzi’s body reveal an unnerving list of illnesses and health conditions, and it’s quite impossible to imagine one person living with all these issues.

Otzi’s joints were terribly worn, probably from intense work and walking long distances. Several arteries were hardened and it’s considered a miracle that he’d lived as long as 46, which was considered old and aged in the era. Otzi was also said to have Lyme disease and a horrifying growth on his little toe that could have been caused by frostbite.

He suffered serious gum diseases and some major tooth decay, had shocking levels of arsenic in his body, and was said to have whipworms in his gut. Lastly, Otzi lacked the 12th pair of ribs and both wisdom teeth. Three or four of his existing right ribs were crushed, either from the fall when he died or the impact of the ice. 

Otzi had markings on his body similar to tattoos

If you thought getting tattoos in the 21st century was painful, wait till you find out how it was done 5,000 years ago. 

The Iceman had a total of 50 tattoos all over his body, and they were not made with needles, as we know today. Researchers believe that Otzi is the earliest proof of acupuncture in traditional medicine. His tattoos were mostly lines and collections of dots located in areas of the body prone to pain and injury. His bones showed strain-induced degeneration and he must have suffered several bone-related diseases.

They were produced by making fine cuts on the skin which were later rubbed with pigment manufactured from ash or charcoal. 

Otzi’s diet included pollen and goats

Analysis of his stomach content revealed that Otzi ate meat from an ibex, a wild mountain goat, roughly 2 hours before he died. His stomach also contained 30 different types of pollen that can be found in different parts and elevations of the mountains. These findings prove that Otzi had traveled around the area quite a lot before his death, and the state of the pollen revealed that he had died in either spring or summer.


  1. Otzi.” Britannica. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  2. The Iceman Reconsidered.” Scientific American. Dickson et al. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  3. Iceman Bled Out From Arrow Wound, X-Ray Scan Reveals.” National Geographic. John Roach. Retrieved August 31, 2020.
  4. 5 Surprising Facts About Otzi the Iceman.” National Geographic. James Owen.