In 1991, a 5,000 year old mummy was found in the Italian Alps. Christened “Ӧtzi”, the body had been naturally preserved because it had been covered in ice shortly after the man died. In the beginning, scientists were able to learn a lot about life in the Copper Age. They were able to learn about the clothing that he wore and the tools that he used.
When his lungs were examined, it was found that they were blackened. Scientists surmised that this was because he had breathed the smoke from campfires. His skin was preserved well enough that the scientists studying the body were able to locate and document tattoos. In this case, they were found on his lumbar spine, behind his right knee and around his ankles. It was believed that they may have been related to acupuncture treatments that were intended to relieve or reduce pain. The earliest confirmed accounts of acupuncture and acupressure in China were from 2000 years later than the time when the iceman walked the earth.
A lot of information was found regarding the iceman’s health. It is known that he suffered from a parasite known as whipworm and that he had been sick approximately three times in the six months that preceded his death. He also suffered from a number of cavities that had deteriorated his teeth prior to his death.
One of the most interesting pieces of information that scientists were able to learn from the Iceman’s body was what his last meal or meals were. Scientists were able to analyze the contents of his lower intestine and had found that he had eaten a meal that consisted of grains and possibly the meat of red deer and goats. They had been unable to use an endoscope to view the contents of his stomach and were unable to tell what his last meal would have been.
Now scientists have been able to study Ӧtzi’s stomach contents. Scanning the body with computer assisted tomography (CAT scanning) showed that the stomach had shifted into the space that would normally be occupied by the lower part of his lungs. Scientists are unsure of exactly why the stomach shifted but were able to locate it and get a sample of its contents.
It is now known that the stomach contained traces of meat and grains. The volume of the stomach contents was fairly substantial which told scientists that Ӧtzi had eaten a large meal approximately two hours before his death. They were able to separate out some larger pieces of meat and grain from the other stomach contents. Scientists are unsure of whether the meat was cooked. There was evidence of animal hairs and fly parts which suggested that the meat may not have been thoroughly cleaned before it was eaten.
Scientists are unsure of why Ӧtzi was killed. They do suspect that his death may not have been from natural causes. An arrowhead had been found lodged in his left shoulder. It was believed that he may have been killed as a ritual sacrifice. The shaft of the arrowhead had been snapped off and evidence of defensive wounds and a blow to the head were also detected.