giovedì 20 novembre 2008

The Ice man

Ötzi the Iceman (pronounced [oetsi]), and Similaun Man are modern names of a well-preserved natural mummy of a man from about 3300 BC (53 centuries ago). The mummy was found in 1991 in the Schnalstal glacier in the Oetzal Alpes, near Hauslabjoch on the border between Italy and Austria. The nickname comes from Ötztal (Ötz valley), the region in which he was discovered. He is Europe's oldest natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic (Copper Age) Europeans. The body and his belongings are displayed in the Regional museum in Bolzano.

Ötzi was found by two German tourists on 19 September 1991. The body was at first thought to be a modern corpse, like several others which had been recently found in the region. Lying on its front and frozen in ice below the torso, it was crudely removed from the glacier by the Austrian authorities using a small jackhammer (which punctured the hip of the body) and ice-axes using non-archaeological methods. In addition, before the body was removed from the ice, people were allowed to see it, and some took portions of the clothing and tools as souvenirs. The body was then taken to a morgue in Innsbruck, where its true age was subsequently ascertained.

By current estimates, at the time of his death Ötzi was approximately 1.65 metres (5 ft 5 in) tall, weighed about 50 kilograms (110 lb/7.9 st) and was about 45 years of age. When his body was found, it weighed 38 kilograms (84 lb/6.0 st). Because the body was covered in ice shortly after his death, it only partially deteriorated. Analysis of pollen and dust grains and the isotopic composition of his tooth enamel indicate that he spent his childhood near the present village ofFeldthurns (Velturno), north of Bolzano, but later went to live in valleys about 50 kilometres further north.
Ötzi had approximately 57 carbon tattoos consisting of simple dots and lines on his lower spine, behind his left knee, and on his right ankle. Using X-rays, it was determined that the Iceman may have had arthritis in these joints. It has been speculated that they may be related to acupuncture.
Ötzi's clothes were sophisticated. He wore a cloak made of woven grass and a coat, a belt, a pair of leggings, a loincloth and shoes, all made of leather of different skins. He also wore a bearskin cap with a leather chin strap. The shoes were waterproof and wide, seemingly designed for walking across the snow; they were constructed using bearskin for the soles, deer hide for the top panels, and a netting made of tree bark. Soft grass went around the foot and in the shoe and functioned like modern socks. The coat, belt, leggings, and loincloth were constructed of vertical strips of leather sewn together with sinew. His belt had a pouch sewn to it that contained a cache of useful items: a scraper, drill, flint flake, bone awl, and a dried fungus to be used as tinder.
Ther items found with the Iceman were a copper axe with a yew handle, a flint knife with an ash handle, a quiver of 14 arrows with viburnum and dogwood shafts. Two of the arrows, which were broken, were tipped with flint and hadfletching (stabilizing vents), while the other 12 were unfinished and untipped. The arrows were found in a quiver with what is presumed to be a bow string, a tool of some sort, and some antler which might have been used for making arrow points. There was also an unfinished yew longbow that was 1.82 metres (72 in) long.
In addition, among Ötzi's possessions were berries
, two birch bark baskets, and two species of polypore mushrooms with leather strings through them. One of these, the birch fungus, is known to have antibacterial properties, and was likely used for medicinal purposes. The other was a type of tinder fungus, included with part of what appeared to be a complex firestarting kit. The kit featured pieces of over a dozen different plants, in addition to flint and pyrite for creating sparks.

You will visit the Oetzi museum during the Fiè allo Sciliar cooking course.

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