German couple Helmut and Erika Simon had been hoping for a special vacation when they traveled to the Alpine region on the Italy-Austria border for adventure. However, the unsuspecting couple would end up getting more than they bargained for.
Shock At The Summit
The Simons loved hiking, and headed to the picturesque Otztal Alps, full of sweeping vistas and snowy mountains. Having veered off the path, though, the couple eventually stumbled across a jarring sight that would chill them to the core.
A Hiker’s Horror
The unassuming mountain climbers couldn’t believe their eyes when on Sept. 19, 1991, they spotted something unusual sticking out of the ice. As the approached, the realized to their horror just what was lodged in the frozen mountainside.
Jetting Out Of The Glacier
There jetting out of the Alpine glacier was a human corpse. It was buried chest-deep under the frozen surface and appeared to be lying face-down with the left arm crossed rightward under the body. Unpleasant thoughts ran through the minds of the German tourists, but they could never have guessed just what they’d found nor the curse that would later be associated with it.
An Unfortunate Mountaineer
Helmut and Erika Simon initially assumed that they had found a fellow mountaineer who’d recently suffered a very unfortunate and fatal accident. With the shocking scene in front of them, they couldn’t just go on with their mountainous trek, though.
At first, the Austrian authorities also estimated that they had yet another case on their hands of a lost mountaineer who had lost his life in a mountain climbing accident perhaps a few decades prior. The authorities solicited the help of a nearby lodge keeper and prepared to removed the body. As they started to pick away at the solid ice, dark clouds quickly crept over the mountain peaks as a ferocious storm rolled.
Three Days Later
The inclement weather forced the group of amateur excavators to abandon their activities and seek shelter several times. Time after time, they failed to extract the corpse from the ice. Exhausted and frustrated, they decided other measures would now be needed.
Fighting off the bad weather and frigid temperatures, excavators finally removed the body from the ice three days after it had been found. But as the mysterious corpse was withdrawn, it was clear it wasn’t alone. At first, it was hard to tell just how long the corpse had been frozen. As the mysterious figure was lifted from the ice, though, it was evident that it had been buried alongside some object that could serve as further potential clues.
The mysterious body was found partially shrouded in several layers of clothing made from animal hides and woven grass, and had several unusual tools and weapons in its possession. At that point, though, no one could have expected the astonishing truth about the peculiar discovery and how it would make history.
Otzi the Iceman
News of the odd discovery traveled fast and started making headlines around the world. The remains of the deceased mountaineer were dubbed by an Austrian journalist as “Otzi the Iceman,” in reference to the site of his discovery in the Otztal Alps.
The First Step
As time passed, the iceman would continue to gain attention as jaw-dropping new developments painted an unimaginable picture of who this really was. Now that the mysterious body had been removed from the ice, the authorities had to take the next step in the procedure of such cases. The remains and all the objects found at the site in the Alps were shipped to a morgue in Innsbruck, Austria for review.
Where Did He Come From?
Archaeologist Konrad Spindler of the University of Innsbruck examined the mysterious iceman, but the results completely blew him away. As it turned out, Otzi turned out to be an ancient mummy cadaver dating back to at least between 3400 and 3100 BCE to the Bronze Age.
That meant that the mummy was about 5,300 years old! Since Otzi was so-well preserved, Spindler and his team had incredibly been able to conduct what was essentially a modern autopsy, leading to insights that would change history as it was known.
An Unusual Mummy
Unlike the Egyptian or Incan mummies that were ravaged by arid desert climates, Otzi the Iceman was considered a “wet” mummy. The glacier and humidity of the ice that he’d been found in had incredibly provided the perfect conditions for keeping a significant portion of his body, organs and skin intact for several millennia.
Based on forensic evidence, scientists could estimate that Otzi had been about 45-years-old at the time of his death. They also determined that he had stood at a height of 5’5” and weighed about 84 pounds.
When And Where
Scientists were able to retrieve enough evidence from the mysterious iceman’s final meals to determine a feast of information. Some 30 different types of pollen in his stomach indicated he’d died in spring or summer. But they also signaled something else.
The frozen conditions Otzi had been found in helped preserve another rare bit of evidence – his skin. Although it may seem unprecedented for the era he lived in, the ancient iceman had 61 tattoos covering his body from head to toe. But the Copper Age engravings weren’t the kind of needle-and-ink body art we’re familiar with today.
If the markings were in fact related to acupuncture or similar treatments, it would be earlier proof than the first-known use of the pain relief method in China 2,000 after his death. Otzi therefore became the oldest tattooed human mummy so far discovered. Wow what a discovery!
Additional evidence helped answer even more questions about the mysterious ancient man. High levels of copper and arsenic found in his hair, along with a copper ax blade found with him, led scientists to speculate that Otzi had been a copper smelter. But all this only led to an unexpected discovery about his health.
Ten Years Later
For 10 years after Otzi’s discovery, his cause of death was not certain. After a decade of continuous examination no one expected to have all the answers about the mummified remains of the Copper Age man. However, when new tests were run in 2001, scientists realized they missed a HUGE piece of evidence.
New X-ray technology revealed that something that had previously gone undetected had been lodged in Otzi’s left shoulder. It turned out to be an arrowhead! This new revelation meant that he had not, in fact, died due to exposure to the elements or unluckily getting trapped in a snowstorm, but something more grisly.
Scientists were beside themselves when years after pouring over the historic find, the new technological advancements revealed that the iceman hadn’t perished due to natural causes but that he’d actually been murdered! This newly-found evidence opened up a whole new set of questions.
Act Of Retribution?
The unexpected discovery that Otzi the Iceman had been murdered led to a new barrage of questions about who had slain him and why. The motive behind the murder that occurred thousands of years ago wasn’t clear for certain, but at first, researchers had some surprising theories.
Otzi the Iceman was found buried alongside a collection of artifacts in his possession. Among there were an ancient field kit, leather and hide clothing, tools, arrows, knives, furs and a copper ax. Interestingly, none of the items seemed to have been stolen from the site.
Even more than 20 years after Otzi the Iceman was discovered, experts hadn’t ceased from examining him as more advanced technologies provided them with the ability to make previously unthinkable discoveries. In 2012, genome sequencing revealed that the ancient iceman had brown eyes and O-type blood. But that wasn’t all.
The Alpine saga involving Otzi the Iceman wasn’t just played out in laboratories and museums. It escalated into an ongoing courtroom case as well. The German couple that had originally found the rare discovery of the well-preserved, millennia-old mummy was entitled to a finder’s fee per Italian law.
Along with petitioning the court to recognize them as Otzi’s “official discoverers,” the Simons also sought a much higher finder’s fee than their initial offering. Instead, they were seeking $300,000. But the local government wasn’t ready to comply without a fight.
The lawsuit would play out in the courts for years, but just a year after the Simons filed their claim, a tragic development would occur that some people claimed indicated an ominous reality surrounding the Alpine mummy.
Thirteen years after finding the prehistoric mummy known as Otzi the Iceman along with his wife, Helmut Simon died in a hiking accident. The ardent mountaineer had been missing for eight days when it was found that he had fatally fallen during a trek in the Austrian Alps near Salzburg.
Helmut Simon was 67-years-old at the time. In light of his tragic passing and that of Konrad Spindler (who had first examined the mummy in Austria), allegations ran rampant that Otzi was cursed. The claims were spurred by the legendary curse of the Egyptian pharaohs along with the media, but the strange case didn’t end there.
To date, the deaths of seven people have been attributed to the alleged curse of Otzi. They also included: an Alpine guide who airlifted the mummy who was the victim of an avalanche, a journalist who filmed the excavation who lost a battle to cancer and a forensic expert who touche Otzi who was sadly in a car crash on the way to a conference about the mummy.
Since 1998, the prehistoric remains of Otzi the Iceman have been on display at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. The mummy is one of the most popular exhibits at the museum, but it not just his mummified remains that visitors can see.