Sunday, December 15, 2013

Meeting Ötzi.

Stepping into the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology was a bit like stepping through time — first, the year 1991.  Live news stories pour down the the walls on TVs and on oversize headline reproductions, trumpeting the discovery of  Ötzi, the 5,000-plus-year-old man who was killed and then accidentally preserved in ice until a couple on a hike discovered him 22 years ago. 

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On the second floor, you step farther back in time to become a "crime scene investigator" of the third millennium B.C. Your task: to discover why and how Ötzi died. Though 500 investigations have been completed, evidence is limited to a crack in his skull (thought to be from blunt force trauma) an unhealed wound on his hand, an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder, and the few items the "iceman" was carrying — including an axe, a dagger, a bow, a quiver, arrows, a backpack, and a net.  Recently, investigators have drawn the startling conclusion that Ötzi was in fact murdered.  However, the motive will forever remain a mystery.

Looking through a tiny window into a refrigerated casket, visitors can see the mummified ambassador of Europe's Copper Age. Thanks to drying and later freezing — conditions replicated in his special tomb — Ötzi's skin resembles shiny leather with the thin layer of ice that must be maintained to preserve him. His clothing and the possessions he was found with are also on display, providing us clues to the daily life and skills of people 5,000 year ago.

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