Concentrating on keeping a foothold on the dangerous glacier, high up in the Ötztal Alps on the Italian/Austrian border, German tourists Helmut and Erika Simon may have thought, fleetingly, about coming across The Abominable Snowman. But they must have been even more astonished – or perhaps incredulous would be a better word – to discover the mummified, clothed body of a man, who was later estimated to have been there for an astonishing 3,500 years! The year was 1991; without doubt a red-letter day in their lives.
Nick-named Ötzi, the discovery must have excited a whole raft of people, keen to learn more about their frozen find. It was believed he lived from 3,350 to 3,105 BC. He was around 45 years old when he died (probably violently, from an arrow wound). He was 5′ 2” tall, wiry and took a shoe-size of size 8. He was also left-handed. He wore a woven grass cloak, fur hat, a hide coat, skin leggings and had quite elaborate deer skin shoes that were lined with grass.
They also found in his possession a half-finished bow and several arrows; a beautifully preserved copper axe; and a rudimentary ‘medicine kit’ of birch fungus, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
His body was heavily tattooed, with 61 distinctive markings. It has been suggested these may have been therapeutic in nature, an early form of acupuncture.
For some odd reason, I compared getting up that morning and going through my simple ablutions, dressing etc. with Ötzi’s experience. I doubt he had slept as well, or as comfortably. No quick ‘cuppa’ for him, he had to make a fire to boil the water for starters.
Scientific analysis of his stomach suggested he had consumed dried meat from red deer and wild goat, as well as grains. They also found traces of fruits, seeds and berries.
He would, of course, also have had to make his whole outfit, starting with his ‘tit-for-tat’ (Cockney slang for hat) by killing a furry animal, and then a larger animal to make his own coat and leggings. (No Izzi Solomon, the tailor around the corner for him… He would have been disgusted with the stitching!?)
It is doubtful Ötzi would have stopped hunting to indulge in a morning Cappuccino and croissant, but I’m hopeful he was planning to call in Cave No. 3, wherein lived a comely maiden. Or maybe he was already ‘spoken’ for and happily married, with two little Ötzis.
I like to think he enjoyed the sun on his face and the wind in his hair now and then, and – who knows – even experienced love.
© Copyright Joy Lennick 2022
Editing and additional research – Jason Lennick