The Ötzi-museum does not believe that there are so many ice mummies in the world

A new study on Ötzi the Iceman, published earlier this week, claimed that while Ötzi is an exceptional find, the circumstances of the discovery and the preservation of his body are not.

A series of miracles is not necessary to explain Ötzi’s case, glacier archaeologist Lars Pilø told sciencenorway.no.

“Ötzi has been preserved by regular natural processes,” he said.

The new study claims, for example, that Ötzi did not die in the ravine where he was found, that there was no sudden climatic cooling that led to his sudden freezing and subsequent preservation, and that there was no moving glacier above Ötzi, but rather that it was preserved in stationary ancient cold ice.

“I think there is nothing new in this article,” Andreas Putzer tells sciencenorway.no.

He is part of the scientific staff of the Ötzi Museum, also known as the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy.

But he finds some parts of the findings rather controversial.

“Obviously this is controversial, as they assume that the Iceman died outside the ravine, and that the ice melting processes brought him to the ravine where he was found. We don’t think it happened that way,” Putzer says.

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He definitely died in the ravine

According to the original interpretations of the find, Ötzi died in the ravine where he was found. Putzer thinks that two factors strongly support this theory:

The way the artifacts were placed suggests they were placed there by the Iceman.

“The Iceman’s bow was in an upright position and some artifacts were intentionally resting on rock, so it’s pretty incredible that ice melting processes brought them there,” Putzer says.

And there is a rock in the way.

“If you know the place of discovery well, you see that this theory is impossible. There was a rock above the ravine which would have prevented the body from falling into the ravine,” says Putzer.

Andreas Putzer works as a curator at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano, Italy.

The Norwegian mountains are not the Alps

Putzer agrees that the artifacts may have been damaged by ice pressure.

“Ice has an impact on conservation, on that I agree,” he says. “They have done a good job in this place of discovery in Norway and show what can happen with destroyed artifacts.”

The new study also reveals that Ötzi was found in a patch of ice – ancient ice that is not moving – rather than sheltering in the ravine under a moving glacier.

“Yes, it could be a patch of ice,” says Putzer.

“I’m not a glaciologist, it could be a patch of ice and no moving ice, I can’t say if they’re right or wrong. But that doesn’t change the Iceman’s situation,” he argues.

“The only novel aspect of this study is the theory that the objects were not found in their original position, and we only partially agree with that. The mummy is probably not dead. exactly where she was found, but closer to her items. But he wasn’t over the ravine, and he didn’t die far from the ravine. That’s what we think,” Putzer said.

The transfer of knowledge from the Norwegian find sites to the Ötzi site is problematic, according to the curator.

“It’s not so easy to transfer the experience from one discovery location to another, especially if you’ve never seen the discovery location,” he says.

The western ravine.  The place where Ötzi was found is marked with a red dot.

The western ravine. The place where Ötzi was found is marked with a red dot.

We’ve known this since the 90s.

That the Iceman was submerged in water is also not new – but the museum and the new study have differing opinions on when this happened.

The new study suggests that Ötzi melted in and out of the ice during the first 1,500 years. And that it was not frozen immediately due to a sudden climatic cooling.

“Global cooling, it’s hard to say – but he wasn’t eaten by animals, not even flies laid eggs in his body. And that’s why we assume that it must have been covered by snow early. There has been a change in climate,” says Putzer.

Also: “We’ve known since the ’90s that he was lying in the water at one point, which is why he lost all his hair and nails,” says Putzer.

“We don’t know exactly when this happened, but there are two warm periods after the death of the Iceman, the first around 1500 BC and the second in Roman times,” he explains. he.

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Don’t Hold Your Breath For More Ice Mummies

And finally, Andreas Putzer doesn’t believe there are many more Ötzis.

“Human bodies are only found if there has been an accident, or if someone has been killed as is the case in Ötzi. These people would otherwise have survived by crossing the ice and glacier. Humans have mostly survived by crossing the glaciers of the Alps,” he says. “So I don’t think we’ll find that many ice mummies in the future.”

Putzer says that when new acquaintances occurred, the museum changed its exhibit.

“I saw someone wrote that this new research means we need to change the way the story is told. We disagree with that. We are knowledgeable and this new research has no no need to be introduced to the exhibition,” he says. “But we are very open to colleagues and theories – those researchers should get in touch with us, and maybe in the future we can do something together .”

A family attends the reconstruction of Ötzi at the Bolzano Museum.

A family attends the reconstruction of Ötzi at the Bolzano Museum.

New theories always meet resistance

Lars Pilø, one of the glacial archaeologists behind the new study, isn’t too surprised by the Ötzi Museum’s response.

“When new scientific evidence and theories emerge, there will always be resistance. So we’ll just have to wait and see how the scientific discourse develops in the future, if views change, eventually,” he says.

He finds the insistence that Ötzi died where he was found strange.

“What we write is that the ice melts, then things move. Ötzi could have been just above the ravine and blended into it, nothing wrong with suggesting that,” says Pilø. once were placed by him. We’ve known for some time from previously published research that it couldn’t be.

Pilø refers to research which established that Ötzi died in spring or summer – when the mountains would have been full of snow.

“You can’t die in a ravine if it’s filled with snow,” he says. “And it’s not like when we find artifacts at glacial sites, they were placed exactly there by someone. They have always been moved by the forces of nature, one way or another.

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Identical natural processes from one site to another

Pilø also disagrees that comparing search sites is problematic.

“We refer to other pass sites in the Alps, and one of the sites we refer to in Norway, Lendbreen, is also a mountain pass, just like Tisenjoch where Ötzi was found,” he says. . “Most of the natural processes at glacial archaeological sites are the same from site to site, region to region, and continent to continent. The Ötzi site is very well documented and published, so it is quite possible to have an informed opinion without having been there.

The fact that Ötzi may have melted ice at a later date is also mentioned in the article, says Pilø.

“Even Konrad Spindler mentioned it in a posthumously published paper in 2009. What’s new is that we combine radiocarbon dates from the bottom of the ravine with the stratigraphy of the ravine to show when it must have open.

“It is also interesting that the museum recognizes that damage to objects can come from ice pressure, this is a point that has not been discussed much elsewhere,” says Pilø.

He finds it strange that Putzer is not more interested in the type of ice in which Ötzi was frozen.

“The nature of the ice at the site is of major importance to understanding the natural processes affecting the discovery, so I respectfully disagree that this does not change the Iceman’s situation”

Time will tell us

So far, the reactions have been mostly positive, says Pilø. A few scientists said their teaching on Ötzi needed to change after the new study was published.

“It seems like the museum mostly sticks to the old story, and that’s okay. Then time will tell how knowledge about Ötzi will develop,” says Pilø.

And he argues that there is a chance of new mummy discoveries in the future.

“They already found a human bone in a nearby mountain pass where Ötzi was found, so it’s not like people didn’t die in those mountain passes,” he says. “Ötzi is of course a rare and unique find. Our aim was to show that this was not the result of extraordinary circumstances.

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About Carlos V. Mitchell

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