THE MOST FAMOUS PROTO-INDO-EUROPEAN OF ALL
For about 5000 years Otzi lay frozen in Ice and snow along the border between Italy and Austria. His body lay in a crevice in the Otztal range of the Alps. For 5000 years his body froze in the winter, thawed in the summer, and refroze in the winter. The time of the earth passed and as he lay hidden, Moses lived, the Pyramids were built, Jesus lived and died and Stonehenge was created… Until one day in 1991 two Mountain climbers veered off the path and found Otzi’s intact mummified body half buried in ice.
Otzi is the oldest European mummy and his discovery answered many questions, and created new ones. Scientists learned more from this one man than they had ever known previously. Otzi carried a copper axe dating to a time before it was believed humans had learned smelting. He set the Copper Age back at least 1000-2000 years.
After examining his body, x-raying it, cat scanning it and taking samples scientists learned that Otzi died from an arrow wound to his back. Otzi had been murdered. You can read the details at the museum site here — South Tyrol Museum.
As with any good murder mystery there are many speculations about what happened. Some think that his axe was rare and a status symbol and he could have been murdered for his axe, yet the axe was still there. Why wouldn’t someone take an item as valuable as his copper axe? Some say it is because the person who killed him was from his village and didn’t want to be found with the axe. It has been speculated that Otzi was being hunted and ran into the mountains to escape, but if that were the case why did he sit down and have a very large meal within an hour or two of his death? And why did he carry a bow not yet completed that wouldn’t hold a string, and 14 arrow shafts, only two of which were pointed and fletched? Otzi had recently made the trip up the mountain, back down and up again.
I’m going to jump in here and give my ideas on what happened. I am no expert on Otzi but like everyone else who has read about him I am a little obsessed with the mystery. I think there are a few things that have been over-looked that might have more significance than is given credit.
Otzi’s axe was not hand forged but forged from a mold. If there was a mold for his axe then more than likely there were more axes made from that mold. Old stone carvings in the area show pictures of axes that look a lot like Otzi’s axe. I don’t think Otzi’s axe was that rare, I think it was common. Otzi’s hair had traces of arsenic and other metals related to smelting. More than likely this was not the only item smelted by him.
Otzi carried two things with him that tell secrets of what his occupation was. He had a bone disc with strings that is used to carry several fowl and he had a small grass woven trap for rabbits. He also had the muscle mass of a man who traveled a lot in hilly terrain. if Otzi was a wanderer or traveler he would need this rabbit trap to feed himself, but a fowl string would be used to carry several fowl and that means he probably brought them back to his village. Also he had eaten herb bread which was probably baked by someone else. As a traveler he probably would only eat the meat from animals he caught. I think Otzi was a trapper and a hunter. I think he probably made trips up into the mountains on a regular basis to hunt and trap game to bring home to his family.
Otzi had made a trip into the mountains, went back to the valley and then went back up the mountain. If Otzi had a very successful hunting trip, could it be possible he wasn’t able to carry all the meat down the mountain at one time? Perhaps he hid some in the snow to preserve it, brought some down and went back up for the rest. This may be why he had no weaponry with him. He was only making the trip back up to get the rest of the meat. Once he had made his way up the mountain he sat down to rest before bringing the meat back down. He sat down by a fire, cut some of the meat from the game and had a very large meal. Other hunters or travelers in the area saw Otzi’s fire, slipped up behind him and shot him in the back and took the game. Otzi used the bow shaft as a walking stick and when his body was discovered his quiver had been laid on a rock and his bow was leaning up right against a rock. He had removed his belongings and laid them aside while he started his fire and ate. None of Otzi’s things were taken because that’s not what the murderer was after. It was the precious meat needed to feed a village.
Otzi also had a wound across the palm of his hand and it is believed it was a defense wound from shielding himself against an attack a few days before. This is what leads researchers to believe that he might have been hunted. But if Otzi was a hunter and trapper he would be using his knife quit often, perhaps it slipped while cutting game, or slipped while he was sharpening the edges of the flint blade.
Being a hunter and trapper Otzi may have even hunted for trade. Researchers believe there was a trade route that ran along the bottom of the mountain and Otzi could have sold his game on that trade route, which means that his game could have been an expensive commodity.
You can read more about Otzi’s DNA discoveries at Discovery Magazine
Pictures courtesy of South Tyrol Museum