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Leon Jaroff
In September 1991, hikers in the Alps near the Italian-Austrian border discovered the
body o...
For further protection, the Iceman wore a woven grass cape over the garment similar
to those used by Tyrolean shepherds as...
was a small, sinewy, and, for his times, rather elderly man in his mid-40s. Judging from the precious, copper-
bladed ax f...
especially the distinct copperbladed ax; the appearance of such a remarkable object in the possession of a
villager would ...
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Iceman Overall


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Two different articles about the Iceman published about 15 years apart. The interpretations and theories surrounding him and his death changed drastically in that time. It's a nice illustration for how historical interpretations are not written in stone, but change depending on new evidence.

Published in: Education, Technology
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Iceman Overall

  1. 1. from ICEMAN 1992 Leon Jaroff In September 1991, hikers in the Alps near the Italian-Austrian border discovered the body of a man who had died approximately 5,300 years ago. Because he had died suddenly, perhaps in a storm, and had been preserved in the mountain ice, his body and the things found with his body provide scientists with rare evidence about the everyday life of a Stone Age traveler. In this article, Leon Jaroff describes some of the remarkable findings scientists have made studying the socalled “Iceman” and the objects found with him. T H I N K T H R O U G H H I S T O RY: Drawing Conclusions What conclusions can you draw about the Iceman’s life from the artifacts that were found with him? A broad portrait of the Iceman and his times is gradually emerging from the tests and observations. He was a fit man, between 25 and 35, about 1.6 m (5 ft. 2 in.) tall—which was short even in his day—and weighed around 50 kg (110 lbs.). Though his nose had been crushed and his upper lip folded by the weight of ice, it is clear that he had well-formed facial features that would not draw stares from contemporary Tyroleans.1 Says South Tyrolean archaeologist Hans Notdurfter: “He looks like one of our well-tanned ancestors.” An examination of his body revealed no sign of disease and no wounds beyond those that were inflicted during his exhumation. But scientists are still pondering the reason for the bluish tinge of his teeth, which were well worn, probably from a diet of milled grain products. Though the mummified body was completely hairless, investigators have plucked about 1,000 curly brownish-black hairs from the recovered shreds of clothing. Those that came from the Iceman’s head were only 9 cm (3 1/2 in.) long—evidence that humans had been cutting their hair far earlier than anthropologists had believed. More mysterious were the well-defined tattoos: groups of blue parallel lines on the Iceman’s lower spine, a cross behind the left knee and stripes on the right ankle. “Since all these tattoos were covered by clothing,” says Konrad Spindler, head of Innsbruck’s Institute for Prehistory, “they must have had an inner meaning for the man and not have had the function of identification for other tribes.” Some scientists suggest that the designs might have been used to mark the passage from youth to manhood. One fact is certain: until this discovery, it was thought that tattooing originated 2,500 years later. The Iceman was well prepared for the Alpine chill. His basic garment was an unlined fur robe made of patches of deer, chamois and ibex skin. Though badly repaired at many points, the robe had been cleverly whipstitched together with threads of sinew or plant fiber, in what appears to be a mosaic-like pattern, belying the popular image of cavemen in crude skins. “The person who made the clothes initially was obviously skilled. This indicates that the Iceman was in some way integrated into a community,” says prehistorian Markus Egg, who is restoring the clothes at the Roman-Germanic Central Museum in Mainz, Germany. As for the repairs, made with grass thread, Egg says, “We assume he did them himself in the wilderness.” Shredded during the Iceman’s recovery, the garment arrived at Mainz in nearly a hundred pieces and with so many bits missing that Egg has doubts about ever fully determining the fashion of the times.
  2. 2. For further protection, the Iceman wore a woven grass cape over the garment similar to those used by Tyrolean shepherds as late as the early part of this century. His well- worn size-6 shoes were made of leather and stuffed with grass for warmth. Last month an Italian expedition turned up an additional furry piece of the Iceman’s wardrobe, probably a cap. The Iceman’s equipment revealed an unexpected degree of sophistication. His copper ax was initially mistaken by Spindler as evidence that the find dated from the Bronze rather than the Neolithic Age. But the blade turned out to be nearly pure copper, not bronze. To archaeologists, the Iceman’s fur quiver is an even rarer prize. “It is the only quiver from the Neolithic period found in the whole world,” Egg marvels. Its cargo of feathered arrows marks another first. Carved from viburnum and dogwood branches, a dozen of them were unfinished. But two were primed for shooting— with flint points and feathers. The feathers had been affixed with a resin-like glue at an angle that would cause spin in flight and help maintain a true course. “It is significant that ballistic principles were known and applied,” says archaeologist Hans Notdurfter. The quiver also held an untreated sinew that could be made into a bowstring; a ball of fibrous cord; the thorn of a deer’s antler, which could be used to skin an animal; and four antler tips, tied together with grass. The bow, which had not yet been notched for a bowstring, is made of yew, which Egg explains is “the best wood in Central Europe for bowmaking and the wood the famous English longbows— like Robin Hood’s—were made of.” Yew is relatively rare in the Alps, but the Iceman had searched out “the best material.” The Neolithic climber was also armed with a tiny flint dagger with a wooden handle; a net of grass, which possibly served as a carrying bag; and a pencil-size stone-and-linden tool that was probably used to sharpen arrowheads and blades. Two birchbark canisters may have been used to carry the embers from a fire, Egg speculates. The Iceman apparently toted much of his gear in a primitive rucksack with a U-shaped wooden frame. Homo tyrolensis, as some scientists have dubbed him, also had a leather pouch resembling a small version of the “fanny packs” worn by tourists today. Inside he carried a sharpened piece of bone, probably used to make sewing holes in leather, and a flint-stone drill and blade. A sloeberry, probably his snack food, was found at the site, along with two mushrooms strung on a knotted leather cord. The mushrooms have infection-fighting properties and may have been part of the world’s oldest- known first-aid kit. The only decorative item, possibly a talisman, was a small, doughnut-shaped stone disk, with a tassel of string. Source: Excerpt from “Iceman” by Leon Jaroff, in Time magazine, October 26, 1992, pp. 62–65. Copyright © 1992 by Time Inc. Reprinted by permission of Time Inc. from Last Hours of the Iceman 2007 Stephen S. Hall Since hikers discovered his mummified corpse in 1991 in a rocky hollow high in the Otztal Alps on Italy’s border with Austria, scientists have used ever more sophisticated tools and intellectual cunning to reconstruct the life and times of the Iceman (or “Otzi”), the oldest intact member of the human family. We know that he
  3. 3. was a small, sinewy, and, for his times, rather elderly man in his mid-40s. Judging from the precious, copper- bladed ax found with him, we suspect that he was a person of considerable social significance. He set off on his journey wearing three layers of garments and sturdy shoes with bearskin soles. He was well equipped with a flint-tipped dagger, a little fire-starting kit, and a birchbark container holding embers wrapped in maple leaves. Yet he also headed into a harsh wilderness curiously under-armed: The arrows in his deerskin quiver were only half finished, as if he had recently fired all his munitions and was in the process of hastily replenishing them. And he was traveling with along, roughly shaped stalk of yew—an unfinished longbow, yet to be notched and strung. Why? When it comes to the Iceman, there has never been a shortage of questions, or theories to answer them. During the 16 years that scientists have poked, prodded, incised, and x-rayed his body, they have dressed him up in speculations that have not worn nearly as well as his rustic garments. At one time or another, he has been mistakenly described as a lost shepherd, a shaman, a victim of ritual sacrifice, and even a vegan. But all these theories fade in the face of the most startling new fact scientists have learned about the Iceman. Although we still don’t know exactly what happened up there on that alpine ridge, we now know that he was murdered, and died very quickly, in the rocky hollow where his body was found. “Even five years ago, the story was that he fled up there and walked around in the snow and probably died of exposure,” said Klaus Oeggl, an archaeobotanist at the University of Innsbruck. “Now it’s all changed. It’s more like a paleo crime scene?’ In June 2001, Paul Gostner, director of the Department of Radiology at the Central Hospital in Boizano, brought a portable x-ray machine to the Iceman’s chamber. His intent was to prepare for a routine analysis of some broken ribs. The following day he dropped by the office of Eduard Egarter Vigi, director of the Institute of Pathology at the hospital and principal caretaker of the mummy, to report that the rib fractures were old and of limited interest. “But I’ve found another thing that I can’t explain:’ he said. “There is this strange extraneous object in the left shoulder?’ When he compared his recent x-rays (and CT scans taken three months earlier) of the Iceman’s torso with earlier films taken by scientists in Innsbruck, Gostner managed to detect what his Austrian colleagues had missed: a dense triangular shadow smaller than a quarter and lodged beneath the Iceman’s left shoulder blade. It turned out to be a stone arrowhead. This “casual discovery:’ as Egarter Vigi put it, instantly turned an inex- plicable death more than 5,000 years ago into archaeology’s most fascinating cold case. The results were astonishing. The sharpened piece of stone, probably flint, had made a halfinch gash in the Iceman’s left subclavian artery. This is the main circulatory pipeline carrying fresh oxygenated blood from the pumping chamber of the heart to the left arm. Such a serious tear in a major thoracic artery would almost certainly lead to uncontrolled bleeding and rapid death. “This is a lethal wound:’ RUhli says. “It was pretty quick With this kind of bleeding, you don’t go walking uphill for hours?’ This new medical evidence suggests that an attacker, positioned behind and below his victim, fired a single arrow that struck the Iceman’s left shoulder blade—precisely the area at which prehistoric hunters aimed to bring down game with one shot. The arrow went clean through the bone and pierced the artery. Blood instantly began to gush out, filling the space between the shoulder blade and the ribs. In his few remaining minutes of life, the Iceman became a textbook case of what is now known as hemorrhagic shock. His heart started to race. Sweat drenched his garments, even at an altitude two miles above sea level. He felt increasingly faint because not enough oxygen was reaching his brain. In a matter of a few minutes, the Iceman collapsed, lost consciousness, and bled out. Who killed the Iceman, and why? Was this a Neolithic version of highwaymen ambushing a hunter and snatching his catch? Or was he stalked and killed by a person, or persons, who knew him? Experts now believe that the mystery may hinge on a bizarre detail of the crime scene. The shaft of the fatal arrow was nowhere to be found. Someone must have pulled it out, leaving behind the stone arrowhead lodged in his body. “I believe—in fact, I am convinced—that the person who shot the Iceman with the arrow is the same person who pulled it out:’ says Egarter Vigl. In an article that appeared this May in the German archaeology magazine Germania, Egarter Vigi and his colleagues noted that telltale markings in the construction of prehistoric arrows could be used to identify the archer much in the way that modern-day ballistics can link a bullet to a gun. They argue that the Iceman’s killer yanked out the arrow shaft precisely to cover his tracks. For similar motives, Egarter Vigi reasons, the attacker did not run off with any of the precious artifacts that remained at the scene,
  4. 4. especially the distinct copperbladed ax; the appearance of such a remarkable object in the possession of a villager would automatically implicate its owner in the crime. The previous, erroneous theories about the Iceman’s demise remind us that much of the current speculation, while plausible, must stand up in the face of continuing research. Above all, this tale of an enigmatic and bloody death atop a desolate alpine ridge is a story about remarkable scientific insight brought to bear on the skimpiest of clues—a fingernail here, a milligram of food residue there, a few grains of pollen—in order to reconstruct a riveting scene of Neolithic noir. Although not a single grunt or cry has passed through the Iceman’s mummified lips in more than 5,000 years, the ongoing investigation continues to tell us new and startling things about life— and death—in the Stone Age. Source: “Last Hours of the Iceman” by Stephen S. Hall, in National Geographic Magazine, July, 2007, pp. 68-81. Questions for first Iceman reading 1. What surprised you about the reading? 2. What are some of the beliefs about early man that this find changed? 3. What do you think are other explanations for the tattoos on the Iceman? 4. What are questions that you have after reading about this find? 5. Who made the source? When? Who is the intended audience? 6. What is the main idea or key passage? 7. What is the purpose of the document? 8. How reliable is the document? 9. How does the document fit with what you know? Answer the same questions for Last Hours of the Iceman, plus: 10. What were the major differences between the two readings? 11. How did your understanding of the Iceman change? 12. What do the differences from 10 say about history and primary sources?