Ötzi’s Last Days
It is the oldest ice mummy ever found. Ötzi, the man from the Neolithic Age, is giving science critical information about life more than 5000 years ago, not least from his equipment. His copper axe, for example, reveals that metalworking was already much more advanced in that era than was previously assumed. Yet Ötzi’s body, too, gives us many details as to his diet, state of health – and not least to his murder.
“Some time ago, we detected a deep cut wound on Ötzi’s hand that he must have survived for at least a couple of days,” says Nerlich, head of the Institute of Pathology at Municipal Hospital Munich-Bogenhausen and member of the Medical Faculty of LMU. “Another team at about the same time found an arrow tip in Ötzi’s left armpit. The shaft of the arrow was missing, but there is an entry wound on the back.” It is probable, in that case, that the man died of internal bleeding because the arrow hit a main artery. What was unclear, however, was the age and exact chronology of the injuries.
Now, Nerlich has reconstructed the missing chronology while working together with LMU forensic scientist Dr. Oliver Peschel and Dr. Eduard Egarter-Vigl, head of the Institute for Pathology in Bolzano. According to the new information, Ötzi did in fact only survive the arrow wound for a very short period of time, of no more than a few hours. A few centimeters below the entry wound they detected an additional small discoloration of the skin, which was probably caused by a blow from a blunt object. In both cases, the researchers, using new immunohistochemical detection methods, managed to detect very briefly survived, yet unequivocally fatal bleeding.
Above the spine are more discolorations that are not associated with bleeding. They probably occurred after the man’s death, due to his interment, for example. “Ötzi had only shortly survived the arrow wound and the blow on the back,” Nerlich summarizes. “At least a couple of days before his death, however, he sustained a severe cut wound on his right hand. Over several days, then, Ötzi suffered at least two injuring events – which could point towards two separate attacks.” (suwe)
“New evidence for Ötzi’s final trauma”,
Andreas G. Nerlich, Oliver Peschel, Eduard Egarter-Vigl
Intensive Care Medicine, online, January 2009
Professor Andreas G. Nerlich
Institute for Pathology, Municipal Hospital Munich-Bogenhausen
Tel.: ++49 (0) 89 / 9270-2310
Fax: ++ (0) 89 / 9270-2067