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Ötzi the Iceman’s doomed ascent to 10,500-foot Alps grave finally revealed by ‘gut microbes’

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THE FINAL journey of world-famous frozen human who died high in the Alps 5,300 years ago has finally been detailed.

Researchers have examined frozen vegetation and gut microbes from around Ötzi the Iceman to uncover the route of his doomed 10,500 alpine ascent.

 Ötzi was found high in the alps by two hikers who had strayed from a mountain path
Ötzi was found high in the alps by two hikers who had strayed from a mountain pathCredit: Getty – Contributor
 This statue depicts what Ötzi may have looked like in life
This statue depicts what Ötzi may have looked like in lifeCredit: AFP

Ötzi, also known as the Iceman and the Similaun Man, is a brilliantly-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived and died between 3400 and 3100 BC.

He was found by two German tourists on September 19, 1991, who were walking off the path between two mountain passes.

The body was discovered at an elevation of 10,530 feet on the east ridge of the Fineilspitze in the Alps near the Austrian-Italian border.

At first, the tourists suspected that the body was a recently-dead mountaineer, but the body was eventually removed and identified as extremely ancient.

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 Ötzi is a 'natural' mummy, preserved due to the frosty temperatures in the high Alps
Ötzi is a ‘natural’ mummy, preserved due to the frosty temperatures in the high AlpsCredit: AFP – Getty

Now researchers from the University of Glasgow and University of Innsbruck have examined mosses and liverworts surrounding Ötzi.

This assembly of plant life ranged from low-elevation to high-elevation species.

Just 30% of the identified species were local, so the rest were either transported by Ötzi’s gut or clothing.

Several of the moss species thrive in the low Schnalstal valley.

This suggests that Ötzi travelled along the valley from Schnalstal during his ascent.

 Ötzi was found with a number of objects and items of clothing
Ötzi was found with a number of objects and items of clothingCredit: PA:Press Association
 Ötzi was found frozen in this position, which may be a sign that he was killed violently
Ötzi was found frozen in this position, which may be a sign that he was killed violentlyCredit: AFP or licensors

“Most members of the public are unlikely to be knowledgeable about bryophytes (mosses and liverworts),” said James Dickson, of the University of Glasgow.

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“However, no fewer than 75 species of these important investigative clues were found when the Iceman was removed from the ice.

“They were recovered as mostly small scraps from the ice around him, from his clothes and gear, and even from his his alimentary tract.

“Those findings prompted the questions: where did the fragments come from? How precisely did they get there? How do they help our understanding of the Iceman?”

Ötzi’s curse – is the Iceman cursed?

Here’s what you need to know…

  • Some have claimed that Ötzi the Iceman is cursed
  • It’s believed that these claims are inspired by the ‘Curse of the Pharaoh’s’, which suggests that all disturbed Egyptian mummies invoke curses
  • Ötzi’s curse is linked to the deaths of people involved with his discovery, recovery and examination
  • Helmut Simon, the co-discoverer of Ötzi, died in 2004 after failing to return from a mountain climb
  • He was scaling the 7,000-foot Gamskarkogel in the Austrian Alps on a Friday evening, aged 67
  • Konrad Spindler, the first examiner of Ötzi, also died shortly after
  • He passed away of complications arising from motor neuron disease in April 2005
  • The deaths of seven people (four of which were accidental) have been attributed to the curse
  • However, hundreds of people have been involved with Ötzi at some point, so the small number of associated deaths is arguably insignificant
 Ötzi would've been middle-aged when he died, and relatively short for a man compared to today's males
Ötzi would’ve been middle-aged when he died, and relatively short for a man compared to today’s malesCredit: AFP
 Scientists have conducted detailed examinations of Ötzi's mummified body
Scientists have conducted detailed examinations of Ötzi’s mummified bodyCredit: EuroPics – CEN
 Some of the tattoos on Ötzi mapped out
Some of the tattoos on Ötzi mapped outCredit: EURAC/M.Samadelli/M.Melis
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 Even Brad Pitt's gotten in on the Otzi action. He's got a tattoo of the Iceman's corpse on his left forearm
Even Brad Pitt’s gotten in on the Otzi action. He’s got a tattoo of the Iceman’s corpse on his left forearmCredit: Getty – Contributor

Estimates suggest that Ötzi was 5ft 3in at the time of death, weighed 110 pounds, and was about 45 years old.

Later DNA analysis revealed that he had eaten a meal of ibex meat less than two hours before he died.

Ötzi was also found buried alongside a copper axe, a knife, and a quiver of 14 arrows.

His other possessions included berries, two birch-bark baskets, and some mushrooms.

It was initially believed that Ötzi had died during a winter storm in the frosty heights of the Alps.

A later theory suggested that he had lost his life due to an arrow wound.

And in 2010, a popular theory emerged that Ötzi had died at a lower altitude, and then was buried higher up in the mountains.

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