At 5,300-years-old, Ötzi is the worlds oldest preserved mummy

Just the basics

  • Was found in 1991 high in the Alps, near the Austro-Italian border
  • Died around 5,300 years ago, during the Copper Age, at the age of 45
  • Is the oldest intact mummy in the world and his remains were so well preserved, that scientists were able to perform an autopsy
  • His body is covered in tattoos, one of the oldest examples in existence
  • He was equipped with various tools and weapons
  • His end was violent, being wounded in a fight a few days earlier. He was shot in the back with an arrow
  • Although he was found in Austria, Italy argued that due to the glaciers movement it was their property
  • The body was turned over to Italy in 1998 and remains there to this day

Lost and found

The Tyrol region is a mountain area, high up in the Austrian and Italian Alps, famous for its unique culture and history. Right in the middle of it, along the national border, lie the Ötztal Alps - a mountain range, which on 19 September 1991 was the site of an incredible discovery. Two German tourists happened upon the remains of a 5,300-year-old mummy, trapped in the ice of a glacier. Named after the place where he was found, Ötzi or The Iceman dates way back to the Copper Age. His remains offer a unique insight into the life of humans in that period. To this day he is still the oldest natural mummy ever to have been found in Europe and his body is covered in 61 tattoos, which until 2018 were the oldest known in existence. In the area around him researchers found various tools, including a quiver with two arrows and another dozen unfinished shafts as well as a small dagger. He also had a long, oval stone, called an end-scraper used for cutting plants and stripping animal hide, a borer for making holes in wood or leather and a wooden block with a deer’s antler attached to it. Known as a retoucher, its purpose was to sharpen stone tools by flaking off new sharp edges. His last days appear to have been very hectic, as he did not have the time to construct a bow or finish his arrows, although he had the tools and materials prepared for them.


Evidence collected from his stomach suggest that about two days before his death he descended the mountains. A little while later he got into a skirmish and was stabbed in his right hand. He then climbed again up the mountain, when he was eventually struck by an arrow from the back. It pierced his shoulder, severing an artery. He died around 45 years of age.

Finders, keepers

As Ötzi was found so close to the border between Austria and Italy, the two countries got into a heated argument about who was going to keep it. Although the body was originally found in Austria, the Italian government maintained that due to the movement and shrinking of the glacier, when the border was established in 1919 it was actually 100 meters into Italian territory. Both parties finally agreed to let the Innsbruck University finish its examination and since 1998 Ötzi has been on display in the Archeology Museum in Bolzano, Italy.

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