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Murder mystery involves a 5000-year-old personality

By JW Dowey - 27 Sep 2016 9:10:0 GMT
Murder mystery involves a 5000-year-old personality

What in Hades did a 5000-year-old man do so high in the mountains when he died. This mystery only becomes deeper as we find out more about him than his mother knew. Ancient history is a gamble. We will never really know what happened but the little we have on Crete and Egypt might eventually help explain a link to Italy and the Alpine “murder mystery.”Ancient gods image; Credit: © Shutterstock

The world around the Mediterranean and China was fast developing 5000 years ago. We know virtually nothing about the attitudes, but we do know how Cretans traded and Egyptians and the Chin made war. A mummy is no new introduction to the archaeologists. An almost live-looking man, still known as a mummy, is however, as novel as the mammoth babies that we can also blame on preservation by ice and cold.

Oetzi emerged from the Alpine glaciers in 1991, exactly25 years ago. His effect was immediate and made-up stories developed with no credible evidence to support them. If he was an archer (because he carried a quiver with him), we could just as well assume he could have been in a battle or a local skirmish. We still don’t know.

Facts become much more interesting now that more can be gathered from very recent technology. It could be that we can finally pin him down as everyman, tourist or traveller, warrior, tradesman or businessman! His animal skins reveal a lot about use of domestic stock, even at that early date. As the Bronze Age began in some Anatolian backwater, Oetzi carried a copper weapon- an axe. In that copper was lead content now placing its origins in Tuscany, far to the south. Did he buy it there or was it traded for him? The better question is centred around did men have to carry weapons as they travelled for protective reasons, or simply to hunt? His hair contained high arsenic and copper levels too, but any conclusions are misleading if that content came from the soil around his body.

Was he murdered? We have no evidence apart from the tiny arrow -head that killed him slowly. Murder assumes he wasn’t himself a criminal or part of a fighting group, especially considering that he seems to have been escaping across the mountains at 3210m (10,500 feet) - but from what? These questions are annoying but necessary.

3 years ago, the obvious CT scan was performed, only to find that the aorta and pulmonary artery, as well as stomach and leg arteries were highly calcified. Either Oetzi inherited it from ancestors- or diet contributed in some way! His DNA analysis proves the first argument is likely. Police analysis is unreliable in itself, but criminal investigators place the murderer at some distance, unexpected by the victim, as he had just eaten heartily (despite his heart condition.) near Tisenjoch. No theft was obvious, and a hand injury is interesting but did not occur at the crime scene.

So much for the crime. Oetzi could have been killed for many reasons, as we have no idea how local he was. Other icemen could prove conclusive about his origins, but there are none. He is unique and the popularity he has achieved may not interest some. He does however have a connection to all of us. We love a mystery, and none of the circumstances surrounding his life and death are really known. We know his blood group, his lactose intolerance, his brown eyes, he was 45, and maybe a good guy! Only science has helped us to understand, but without any knowledge of the whys and wherefores, and especially the whos!

You can keep in touch with the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology where Oetzi’s body is sometimes worshipped. The address is here. Our own obsession with Oetzi can be read up in here. We will write no more about this scientific curiosity, until he achieves true immortality by solving his own death mystery. Did people follow him that far to kill what in those days was quite an old person. Was he in that case a person of importance, or a low criminal, a soldier of fortune, a gambler in debt, or involved in the ever-popular ethnic cleansing we know about in Ancient Greece, Egypt and the Middle East?