Archaeology Magazine Archive

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Ötzi's Final Moments, Italy Volume 61 Number 1, January/February 2008
by Eti Bonn-Muller

Ötzi's Final Moments • South Tyrol, Italy


A new CT scan of Ötzi shows that the arrow discovered in his back in 2001 severed an artery, almost certainly leading to massive blood loss that resulted in his death. (South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

The 5,300-year-old mummy--dubbed "Ötzi the Iceman"--found frozen in the Alps in 1991 made headlines again in 2007. Researchers at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, where Ötzi's remains are housed, conducted CT scans that revealed exactly how he died: an arrow to the back pierced an artery; basically, he bled to death. Although X-rays and CT scans carried out in 2001 showed that an arrow had been wedged in his shoulder, this new evidence suggests the arrow inflicted the fatal blow (after which, the poor guy fell, hit his head, and suffered a brain hemorrhage).

For more than 15 years, scientists have been reconstructing every detail of Ötzi's life, down to the contents of his last meal. One of their most interesting findings was that the Iceman sports some of the world's oldest tattoos, most of which resemble blue-black hash marks. Many tattoo artists feel they are carrying on his tradition even today, a phenomenon that may have had a role in another significant story this year.

More Top Discoveries of 2007

© 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of America