Ötzi oddities: weird facts about the world-famous iceman

Ötzi schnapps, genetic relatives and tattoos: What you should know about Ötzi the Iceman.

Ötzi schnapps, Ötzi pizza and Ötzi chocolate? Ötzi paperweights and mouse pads? Yes, all of this paraphernalia really exists. For a limited time, "The Ötzis" were even available inside Ferrero Kinder Surprise Eggs.

Ötzi is also the motif for a famous Hollywood tattoo: Brad Pitt had a depiction of "Frozen Fritz" (the iceman’s nickname in America) inked on his forearm. Ötzi even appeared on the cover of TIME magazine in America on 20 October 1992. There can be little doubt that the iceman is a true international celebrity.

A life-size reconstruction of Ötzi has also been created: Two palaeo-artists used stereolithography of the skull and CT images to artistically recreate Ötzi as he might have looked. The artificial interpretation, which is made of silicone rubber, synthetic resin, and real hair, is on display at the Ötzi Museum and online! Following a 48-hour photo shoot, since March 2009 Ötzi can now be admired as a 3D image on the internet.

But why are people around the world so fascinated by the iceman? Perhaps because we have actually been able to learn so much about this man from the Chalcolithic period. Or, perhaps it’s because we still have so many secrets yet to uncover. It all began during an Alpine tour that would change the lives of Helmut and Erika Simon forever.

On September 19, 1991, the Simons discovered the world’s oldest iceman while hiking in the Ötztal Alps. The leathery body was found on the Schnalstal Glacier at the Tisenjoch ridge not far from the Similaun mountain hut at 3,210 meters.

Since that day, over 25 years ago, researchers have worked tirelessly to uncover every detail about Ötzi’s life and mysterious death. As for the name he was given shortly after discovery, Yeti and Ötztal were cleverly combined to form Ötzi. Experts believe that the 1.6-m-tall man lived 5,300 years ago. He had worms and fleas, suffered from athlete's foot, borreliosis (Lyme disease), lactose intolerance and elevated cholesterol. Ötzi weighed 50 kilograms and lived to be about 45 years old. Ötzi had about 60 fine-line tattoos and his last meal consisted of dried venison and ibex meat as well as grain.
© Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum/foto-dpi.com © Südtiroler Archäologiemuseum/Augustin Ochsenreiter

And yet Ötzi still has so many secrets to reveal. Scientists have not yet definitively determined his cause of his death, but an arrowhead in his left shoulder and foreign blood on his clothes indicate that he was murdered.

For holidaymakers in South Tyrol, all roads lead to Ötzi. Since 1998, the Iceman has been housed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, aka the Ötzi Museum, in Bolzano. Cooled and preserved for posterity, over 250,000 people visit the Iceman every year. Let’s admit it, we’ve all got a little bit of Ötzi fever, don’t we?

Ötzi fever is in full force in the Schnalstal valley as well! The 2017 film ‘Iceman’ starring Jürgen Vogel was shot in the valley where Ötzi was originally found. In summertime, mountain enthusiasts can hike in Ötzi's footsteps during a guided Ötzi Glacier Tour! Participants hike 7-8 hours to the glacier where Ötzi was originally discovered. The tour starts at the Grawand mountain at 3,212 metres (site of the highest hotel in the Alps) and continues via the Hochjochferner glacier and Schwarze Wand mountain to the Tisenjoch ridge.

For archaeology fans, the archeoParc in the Schnalstal valley is a can’t miss attraction. Everything here revolves around Ötzi as well. This archaeological open air museum invites guest to hone their Stone Age skills during archery, flour grinding or lighting a Stone Age fire. In the open-air museum with its visitor centre, you can discover the secrets of how Ötzi lived, how he might have died, and what he looked like.

Perhaps you met a distant relative of Ötzi during your holiday in South Tyrol? In a 2013 DNA study, genetic researchers discovered special characteristics in Ötzi's male sex chromosome, which led them to identify 20 living relatives in South Tyrol.
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