Iceman

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Iceman

Age determination

Significance of discovery

The Iceman is an intact, 5,300-year-old mummy discovered September 19, 1991, in a melting glacier within the Italian Alps near Austria. The oldest human discovered in Europe, he is one of the most complete, naturally mummified humans ever found.

Age determination

Tools found near the body accompanied the Iceman to Innsbruck, and one of these tools, an axe with a metal blade, provided information about the Icemans age. The distinctive shape of the axe, similar to those of the Early Bronze Age (2200-1000 BC), suggested the body is approximately 4,000 years old. Repeated radiocarbon dating of a bone sample, performed at two different laboratories, indicated the Iceman is 5,300 years old. The axe blade was analyzed and found to be copper, supporting the radiocarbon dating. Therefore, scientists concluded the Iceman lived during the Stone Age, or Neolithic period. More specifically, he lived during the Copper Age, which occurred in central Europe between 4000-2000 BC.

Significance of discovery

Studying the Iceman is important to many branches of science, including archaeology, biology, geology, and pathology. The Iceman, stored at 21° F ( 6° C) and 98% relative humidity, is removed for observation or sample collection for no longer than 20 minutes at a time.

The body was naturally freeze dried at an altitude of about 10,500 ft (3,200 m). Prior to the find, archaeologists had never excavated for evidence of human activity at such high altitudes in Europe. Geologists wondered how the Iceman was spared the grinding forces of glacial ice, and why he was not transported down the mountain within an ice flow. The corpse was in a rock-rimmed depression below a ridge, so the Iceman remained entombed in a stable ice pocket within this depression and was left undisturbed as the glacier flowed overhead.

The Icemans axe, flint knife, bow and arrows, leather pouch, grass cape, leather shoes, and other accessories provide a glimpse of everyday life during Europes Copper Age. The Icemans leather clothing is rare, because leather scrapers are often the only evidence of leather workmanship typically recovered at archeological sites.

Scientists have analyzed the Icemans bone, blood, DNA, and stomach contents to assess the presence of diseases, his social status, occupation, diet, and general health. Studies of his teeth suggest a diet of coarse grain; studies of his hair suggest a vegetarian diet at the time of his death. Analyses indicate he was 5 ft 2 in (1.5 m), 110 lb (50 kg), and approximately 25 to 35 years of age at death. Scientists speculate that the Iceman died of exposure.

Biologists identified slowberries in his birch bark container, suggesting he died in the autumn, when the berries ripen. Speculation that he belonged to an agricultural community is based on the grains of ancient wheat found with the corpse.

The Icemans tattoos are 2,500 years older than any seen before. Placed on his body in locations not easily observed and thought to correspond with acupuncture points, they raise the question that acupuncture may have been practiced earlier than thought and possibly began in Eurasia not east Asia.

views updated

Iceman

The Iceman is an intact, 5,300-year-old mummy discovered September 19, 1991, in a melting glacier within the Italian Alps near Austria. The oldest human discovered in Europe , he is one of the most complete, naturally mummified humans ever found.


Age determination

Tools found near the body accompanied the Iceman to Innsbruck, and one of these tools, an axe with a metal blade, gave scientists a clue to the Iceman's age. The axe's distinctive shape, similar to those of the Early Bronze Age (2,200-1,000 b.c.), suggested the body is approximately 4,000 years old. Repeated radiocarbon dating of a bone sample , performed at two different laboratories, instead indicated the Iceman is 5,300 years old. The axe blade was analyzed and found to be copper , supporting the radiocarbon dating.

Therefore, scientists believe the Iceman lived during the Stone Age, or Neolithic Period. More specifically, he lived during the Copper Age, which occurred in central Europe between 4,000-2,000 b.c.


Significance of discovery

Studying the Iceman is important to many branches of science, including archaeology , biology , geology , and pathology . The Iceman, stored at 21°F (-6°C) and 98% relative humidity , is removed for observation or sample collection for no longer than 20 minutes at a time.

The body was found naturally "freeze dried" at an altitude of about 10,500 ft (3,200 m). Prior to the find, archaeologists had never excavated for evidence of human activity at such high altitudes in Europe. Geologists wondered how the Iceman was spared the grinding forces of glacial ice , and why he was not transported down the mountain within an ice flow. Fortunately, the corpse lay in a rock-rimmed depression below a ridge. The Iceman remained entombed in a stable ice pocket within this depression, undisturbed as the glacier flowed overhead.

The Iceman's axe, flint knife, bow and arrows, leather pouch, grass cape, leather shoes, and other accessories provide a glimpse of everyday life during Europe's Copper Age. The Iceman's leather clothing is rare indeed. The only evidence of leather workmanship typically recovered at an archeological site is a leather scraper.

Scientists have analyzed the Iceman's bone, blood , DNA, and stomach contents to assess the presence of diseases, his social status, occupation, diet, and general health. Studies of his teeth suggest a diet of coarse grain; studies of his hair suggest a vegetarian diet at the time of his death. Analyses indicate he was 5ft 2in (1.5 m), 110 lb (50 kg), and approximately 25-35 years of age at death. Scientists speculate that the Iceman died of exposure.

Biologists identified slowberries in his birch bark container, suggesting he died in the autumn, when the berries ripen. Speculation that he belonged to an agricultural community is based on the grains of ancient wheat found with the corpse.

Although errors made in handling and preserving the body destroyed our chances to answer certain questions, there is much the Iceman will teach us about life 5,000 years ago. For example, the Iceman's tattoos are 2,500 years older than any seen before. Placed on his body in locations not easily observed and thought to correspond with acupuncture points, they raise the question that acupuncture may have been practiced earlier than thought and possibly began in Eurasia not east Asia .

views updated

iceman •cancan •ashcan, trash can •billycan • jerrycan • oilcan •Leninakan • gamelan • Ameslan •Acrilan • Catalan • adman •bagman, ragman, swagman •packman, Pac-man •sandman • gasman • taxman • Batman •jazzman • yardman • legman •chessman • repairman • mailman •apeman • spaceman • caveman •he-man • freedman • linkman •middleman • Winckelmann •wingman • hitman • handyman •bogeyman • everyman • iceman •conman • strongman •lawman, strawman •snowman • patrolman • oilman •schoolman • newsman •frontman, stuntman •wireman • anchorman • Telemann •newspaperman • Superman •cameraman • motorman •weatherman • merman • Poznan

views updated

iceman a name for a prehistoric human or hominid, the frozen remains of whom are discovered preserved in (especially) glacial ice; the term has been particularly associated with the body of a man discovered in 1991 in the mountains of the Tyrol on the Italo-Austrian border.

The first newspaper reports suggested that it was the body of a medieval man; initial archaeological views selected the Bronze Age. However, carbon dating, and the analysis of skin and bone samples, soon made it clear that Iceman came from a much earlier period, perhaps as early as 3300 bc.

views updated

Iceman ★★★ 1984 (PG)

A frozen prehistoric man is brought back to life, after which severe culture shock takes hold. Underwritten but nicely acted, especially by Lone as the primal man. 101m/C VHS, DVD . CA Timothy Hutton, Lindsay Crouse, John Lone, David Strathairn, Josef Sommer, Danny Glover; D: Fred Schepisi; W: Chip Proser; C: Ian Baker; M: Bruce Smeaton.