Revealed: The final journey of the 5,300-year-old iceman

The final journey of a mountaineer has been charted more than 5,000 years after he died in the Alps.

Hikers found the mummified remains of a man now known as Otzi back in 1991, with his corpse having melted out from the ice some 3,210m above sea level.

Almost 30 years on from the discovery, the last trek of the 5,300-year-old body has been revealed by plants that were frozen with him at the time of his death.

Clothing and gear was found alongside the remains
Clothing and gear was found alongside the remains

Researchers have identified preserved moss and liverwort fragments in his gut and clothing which represent at least 75 different species – only 30% of which appear to be local to the area.

The remaining 70% have helped scientists come to the conclusion that Otzi, who was about 45 when he died, found his way up the mountain via the lower Schnalstal valley in modern South Tyrol, Italy.

The key find was a woodland species called Flat Neckera, which along with other mosses was found to be as “near proof as it is possible” to show the Copper Age iceman climbed from south to north up Schnalstal.

Until now it was thought possible that he may have ascended other adjacent valleys.

Jim Dickson, of the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, said the mosses were “recovered as mostly small scraps from the ice” around Otzi.

He said they were “important investigative clues” that proved crucial in mapping “the precise route” of his last trek.

The corpse was found in the Alps
The corpse was found in the Alps

Schnalstal is now a popular skiing location and several of the identified moss types still thrive there.

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Otzi himself is housed in a specially designed cold cell in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, which have simulated glacier conditions to preserve his remains since he arrived in 1998.

When he was alive, Otzi was about 5ft 2in, is believed to have weighed 50kg, and had dark, medium-length hair with brown eyes and a beard.

His estimated age of 45 was considered healthy for the time.


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