Murder in 3300 BCE

A close-up photo of an Egyptian mummy.

Image: Shutterstock

For starters, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the fact that there is an International Mummy Congress and how awesome that is. This year, it was held in Bozen-Bolzano. The whole three day affair was dedicated to Ötzi, also known as the “Man from the Ice.” Ötzi is an incredibly well preserved, roughly 5,300 year-old mummy found in 1991 on the border of Austria and Italy.

Because he is so well preserved, we’ve been able to learn a lot about him (Ötzi was named after the Ötzal Alps in which he was found). For example, we know that he carried a copper headed axe, which wasn’t a thing archaeologists knew existed during that time. Previously, archaeologists assumed that the ancients used bronze since it is a stronger type of metal. Researchers also discovered that the copper in that axe (which they’d previously assumed was local) was mined in southern Tuscany, which is quite far from the Ötzal Alps.

Recent studies also reveal that Ötzi was murdered. While it may sound far-fetched to perform an autopsy on a 5,300 year-old body, researchers point to several pieces of evidence to support their conclusion.

First off, there was an arrowhead found in his left shoulder, which has been determined as the cause of death. Arrows don’t end up in people’s shoulders (and from behind, no less) by accident. According to a Munich police investigator who examined the body, Ötzi was shot from behind from a great distance. But perhaps more puzzling is the fact that researchers have been able to pinpoint what he was doing when he was shot.

According to archaeologists, Ötzi was sitting down for a meal when he was struck from behind. Immediately after being struck, he fell forward and died. But the plot thickens… whoever killed him didn’t loot his body. The murderer left some very valuable items behind (like the axe) which implies that theft was not the motive. What Ötzi did to deserve such a fate remains a mystery.

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