When Mr. and Mrs. Simon began the descent of their hike on September 19th, 1991 they had no idea how much this day would change their lives. A unique encounter, a relic from a long forgotten time or maybe the most thrilling criminal case of all time – Whatever you want to call it, “Ötzi” remains an everlasting mystery …
September 19th is a mild fall day with almost summerlike temperatures. The weather gods mean well with Erika and Helmut Simon. The passionate mountaineers are about to begin the last part of their hike from Fineilspitze to the Similaun hut in the Ötztal Alps.
At least until they reach the glacier ice field far off the marked path of Tisenjoch where they find the outlines of a human body. Obviously, help comes far too late. The couple believes that the victim must be a tragically killed mountaineer or skier and immediately informs the host of the nearest mountain hut about the mysterious discovery at the hollow beneath the Tisenjoch. The two hikers have absolutely no clue that they just found a body from the Chalcolithic period (Copper Age).
A thrilling discovery for both science and mankind
In fact, the body they just accidently found turns out to be the oldest known natural human mummy. Within days “Ötzi” becomes world famous. Scientists soon figure out that the Man from the Tisenjoch was stuck in the hollow for roughly 5300 years – perfectly protected by the cold. The thick layers of ice are the reason why Ötzi’s body “survived” for so many centuries. Simply the unusually warm summer of 1991 melted the ice and brought the mummy into the daylight.
Since then a myriad of scientists and archeologists from around the world have examined the antique discovery and the life of the man from the Stone Age. “Frozen Fritz”, how he is called in the UK, raises many questions. Furthermore, he did not only change the lives of Erika and Helmut Simon, but turned an entire region upside down.
The world’s oldest homicide
Reconstruction of Ötzi's dagger and sheath
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Who was Ötzi and what kind of life did he live? Most of the questions concerning Ötzi’s life will remain unanswered! However, according to pathological and anatomical examinations he approximately reached 46 years of age and was about 1,60 m tall. His clothing and equipment suggests that he was either a warrior or shepherd.
Nonetheless, scientists agree on one common assumption: It is rather certain that the iceman was stabbed in the back. Those claims are supported by the cut in his hand, the foreign blood on his weapons as well as the x-ray images taken in 2001. These show an arrowhead made of stone in his left shoulder. It appears that Ötzi was brutally shot down, fell and succumbed to the freezing cold of the Ötztal Alps. But the actual events of his death remain a mystery …
Many museums and archaeology parks in Tyrol and South Tyrol occupy themselves with the mysterious iceman to ensure that not only scientists and researchers get to learn more about the man from the New Stone Age. In 1998 the Ötzi Museum opened its doors to the public. The Ötzi village in Umhausen invites its visitors into a world that existed 5000 years ago with its people, buildings as well as hunting and working equipment from the Copper Age. If you literally want to take the footsteps of the world’s most famous man from the Stone Age, you should consider taking the mountain tour from the Similaun hut to the place of discovery at the Tisenjoch – goosebumps and thrills guaranteed!