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Scientist to discuss groundbreaking Iceman research

The well-preserved body of the Iceman, referred to as Ötzi, was found in 1991 by hikers in the Central Eastern Alps.

By BERT GAMBINI

Published April 10, 2017

“We have for the first time a window into the lives of people who lived 5,000 years ago.”
Peter Biehl, professor and chair
Department of Anthropology

Klaus Oeggl, professor in palynology and archaeobotany at the University of Innsbruck and one of the world’s leading authorities on the Tyrolean Iceman, will discuss recent research about the mummified Neolithic man of the Alps at 4 p.m. April 10 in 354 Fillmore Academic Center in the Ellicott Complex, North Campus.

Oeggl’s keynote lecture is part of The Institute for European and Mediterranean Archaeology’s (IEMA) 10th annual Visiting Scholar Conference, titled The Archaeology of Mountain Landscapes.

Hikers accidentally found the Iceman’s body in 1991 in the Central Eastern Alps near the border separating Austria and Italy. Initially thought to be a recently deceased individual, researchers eventually determined the corpse to be the well-preserved body of an approximately 45-year-old male who lived around 3200 B.C.

The Iceman, referred to as Ötzi, is a two-fold archaeological illustration of mystery and information. Evidence that he was possibly murdered makes him the subject of the world’s longest-running cold case, but more than 25 years of research also have provided an astonishing glimpse into the human condition of the remote past.

“This is truly an amazing story,” says Peter Biehl, professor and chair of the Department of Anthropology and IEMA director. “We have for the first time a window into the lives of people who lived 5,000 years ago.”

In addition to an overview of major findings since the Iceman’s discovery, Oeggl’s lecture will focus on new research, including presentation of many unpublished images that explore many unresolved issues: How did he die? What did he eat? How did he get up to the mountain? Where did he live? Was he a warrior, a shepherd or a shaman?

“We have cultures in Italy and cultures in Germany, but we never thought that people 5,000 years ago had crossed high mountain ranges like the Alps,” says Biehl. “How did he get there?”

The Iceman is slowly providing answers to these questions, as well as illuminating the study of climate change and the history of illness.

“Glaciers are melting around the world, but here we have a perfectly preserved body captured in ice,” says Biehl. “That also relates to the kind of climate change research happening at UB.

“We also know what kind of illnesses he had because his body is so well preserved, which helps us to better understand health conditions in the past and possibly inform our research of these diseases in the present and future,” he says.

“This is a rare opportunity to look into the eye of a human who lived long ago.”