Ötzi died by blow on the head

Arrow in the shoulder is not the cause of death

At the Tiesenjoch in the Schnalstaler Glacier, Ötzi was accidentally discovered in 1991 © South Tyrol Museum of Archeology
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The mystery of the cause of death of the "Ötzi" has occupied scientists and the public since its discovery. Now, an interdisciplinary research team has presented a new theory of the cause of death of the man from the ice. He died of a traumatic brain injury and not of the arrow in his shoulder.


Face down and an unnaturally twisted across the chest Ötzi was discovered in 1991 in the ice. Since then, researchers, museum visitors and interested parties from all over the world are puzzling over the causes of this strange posture and the death of the man from the ice. An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the Viennese archaeologist Andreas Lippert, the Bolzano-based radiologist Paul Gostner and Patrizia Pernter as well as the forensic and preservation officer Eduard Egarter Vigl have once again considered the location of the glacier mummy together.

Stubborn after blow on the head

At a discussion evening organized by the newly founded EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, they presented the results of their study on Monday, 27 August, which allow conclusions to be drawn on the cause of Ötzi's death: The man from the ice had, the scientists explain, in addition his already known injury to the hand and the arrow wound on the shoulder suffered a traumatic brain injury. This is clearly due to a frontal attack. It was certain so far that Ötzi was first hit by an arrow on the shoulder. A heavy bleeding made him defenseless, but it was not equally deadly.

It was not until a frontal attack with a blow to the head that Ötzi fell with his back to a stone and died there as a result of a traumatic brain injury. The unnatural posture stems from the fact that his attacker turned him on the back before the rigor mortis and pulled the arrow from the shoulder. In this position, lying on his stomach across his left arm, Ötzi is found 5, 300 years later. display

Data from computed tomography and forensics

The results of the research team are based on a further joint investigation of the finding position and computed tomographic findings from 2005 and on new forensic data. The new findings disprove previous theories, which suggested that Ötzi had taken the unnatural attitude in his sleep, that the corpse had been turned by the glacier movement, or that it had thawed and been driven across the meltwater to another location. The results presented at the EURAC are published in the current issue of the archaeological journal GERMANIA.

(European Academy Bolzano, 29.08.2007 - NPO)