The Iceman Cometh
Host and adventurer Josh Bernstein heads for the high Alps on the Austrian-Italian border to discover the latest secrets revealed by the clothes, weaponry, and body of Ötzi the Iceman. Josh faces down a deadly blizzard, helicopters out of near disaster, and comes face-to-face with a stone-cold, stone-age killer. Along the way, he discovers that the Iceman is rewriting our ideas about the life of our ancestors at the dawn of civilization--and he learns much about the character of Ötzi!
created by diggingforthetruth.net 2008
Journal taken from The History Channel DFT site. Photos taken from The History Channel DFT site and video.
In 1991, a pair of vacationing German hikers stumbled onto one of the most remarkable finds in the history of archaeology: the perfectly preserved body of a 5,000-year old man. What made the discovery so important was more than just his state of physical preservation, but also the period of time from which he came--the very cusp of the age between stone and steel.
The Iceman Cometh
"Oetzi" the Iceman: "Those who know my background will understand why the 'Oetzi' topic is so exciting for me—it's the closest we get to Stone Age technology in the DFT series (so far, anyway). The skills Oetzi mastered—making clothing from hides, fire from rocks—are a big part of what BOSS, my survival school, teaches people, so it is with even MORE passion that I explore the world of Europe's Stone Age/Copper Age and see what may have led to this man's death 5,300 years ago."
The Alps: "I'm no stranger to snow-covered mountains or altitude, but for some reason the Alps represent a much more 'real' sense of danger to me than the Rockies. Maybe it's because I've been traveling through deserts and summer for the past five months, but when I get to the Alps between Italy and Austria, I'm sensitive to the fact that this is not an environment where one takes the weather for granted."
Glacier Travel: "Okay, so while I've hiked through mountains and made a few summit climbs, I've not hiked across glaciers before. Markus Pirpamer, however, is one of the best guides around and was one of the people involved in the removal of Oetzi's body in 1991.
With a VERY quick lesson on what to do if one of us falls (what you see on TV is the full extent of the lesson), we head off. Oh, and Markus is kind enough to say that there was a 90 percent chance of someone falling in to a crevasse. Super."
Italy or Austria?: "For many, this is a raging debate which affects the ownership of the Iceman's body. When the discovery was first made in 1991, the mountaineers thought that the archeological site was in Austria, so the body was flown to the University of Innsbruck for more study. The Iceman was given the nickname 'Oetzi' after the Oetztal (also Oetzal) Alps. But in 1998, a new survey showed that the discovery site was actually in Italy—by only a FEW METERS. So the body was transported to Bolzano, where it remains today. Most people still refer to him as "Oetzi" but those who prefer to avoid any reference to Austrian geography call him 'Hibernatus.' I prefer Oetzi and stick with that. But there are museums and tourist attractions for the Iceman on both sides of the border."
The Helevac Rescue: "This, my friend, is VERY real. You can tell because we have almost no footage of it—we packed up the cameras and raced for our lives to the helicopter. Looking back on it now, there wasn't much we could do: The storm came in very fast from behind the other side of the ridge, so we couldn't see it building or closing in. By the time we saw it, Markus knew he had to call in a chopper or risk our spending the night on a glacier with inappropriate gear. It would have gotten ugly..."
Oetzi's Body: "Isn't that mummy weird? It's like shriveled meat with freezer burn... Seeing it for the first time, I'm impressed by how much data has come from this one body. They say he had arthritis and that the tattoos he had on his body (59 tattoos!) were possibly the earliest form of acupuncture. If you look carefully at the video footage, you can see the lines where he or someone he knew punctured his skin with pigments. If this was some sort of acupuncture technique, it would predate the Far East's claim as the birthplace of acupuncture by 2000 years!"
Quinzhee: "'Quinzhee' is an Inuit word for snow shelter. It's like an igloo, only the structure is made from compressed snow instead of ice blocks. I've spent many a night in a quinzhee in the Rockies and am happy to give it a go on a glacier in the Alps. (How could I say no?)
This gives me a lot of time to think about Oetzi and what I've learned so far. And yes, I am truly alone (hence the silly two-camera pieces and the Blair Witch homage)."
The Deer Hunter: "I know some people will take offense at my shooting a dead deer with a bow and arrow, but this is a critical part of experimental archeology. I need to know if this bow and arrow (the same material as Oetzi's) can actually be a viable weapon. And let's face it, in the Stone Age people hunted to eat and to survive. (By the way, what you see on TV is the first take we did with the bow and arrow. I used to be a fanatical archer.)"
The Copper Axe: "Second to perhaps his actual body, the Copper Axe is the most significant part of Oetzi's legacy. To have a copper tool in the 'Stone Age' is not to be taken lightly, and this may have been the reason why Oetzi was killed. Some believe that he was a man of status, a person with power in his community. The axe may have been a symbol of his position, and he might have been killed because of this status. This theory really makes me realize how little we've changed over the past 5,300 years, when people today are killed for their running shoes."
The Final Hours: "Forensic science amazes me. Okay, the hop hornbeam pollen says it was springtime. But to be able to determine that he was in THIS region, in THIS valley, on THIS river because of some moss or some river slime... Wow.
I know it takes many, many years of painstaking research and analysis to gain this expertise and make these claims, but this totally blew my mind. And the information that Klaus Oeggl, Dr. Gostner and Dr. Egarter were able to contribute to the Iceman's story really brings Oetzi's final hours to life, even 5,300 years later."