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  • In September of 1991, German tourists Helmut and Erika Simon were hiking together through

  • the Otztal Alps, when they spotted something eerie in the distance.

  • As they hiked closer to investigate, they were horrified to discover that it was a dead

  • body sticking out of the snow.

  • Though initially they assumed it was the frozen corpse of a dead hiker, the truth was even

  • creepier.

  • Upon retrieval by law enforcement, the body was identified as the victim of a 4000-year-old

  • unsolved murder, and the possible subject of a deadly curse.

  • This is the story of Otzi, the cursed ice mummy.

  • You've heard of cold cases before, but no case is quite as cold as this one.

  • Once Otzi - so named because of the Otztal region he was discovered in - was extracted

  • from the glacier, it became apparent to authorities that this was not the body of a recently deceased

  • hiker.

  • For starters, the thousands of years he'd been stuck in the glacier had left him in

  • a mummified state, and his body was desiccated, but perfectly preserved.

  • On top of that, he clearly wasn't wearing the latest hiking gear - Instead, he was wearing

  • a cloak woven from grass, over leggings, a coat, a loincloth and shoes, all made from

  • animal hides stitched together with sinew.

  • It was immediately apparent that Otzi had been up there for a long time.

  • After a brief border dispute over whether or not the discovery of the mummy occurred

  • in Austria or Italy, it was determined that Otzi was property of the Northern Italian

  • province of South Tyrol.

  • But the local government agreed to lend him to Innsbruck University, a college in neighboring

  • Austria, so that he could be properly examined.

  • This could have been one of the most important archeological finds in Innsbruck history,

  • but the magnitude of the discovery was soon overshadowed by something even stranger: The

  • deadly curse that Otzi appeared to have brought down from the mountain with him.

  • The first death attributed to the curse of Otzi was that of Rainer Henn, a forensic pathologist

  • at Innsbruck University.

  • Henn was part of the original team that removed Otzi from the ice.

  • He was also one of the first people to ever touch the corpse, as he was the one who prepared

  • it for removal.

  • Henn died in a car crash in 1992.

  • Ominously, it was while he was on his way to give a lecture about Otzi!

  • Not long after this first death was the death of Kurt Fritz, who had led the search team

  • to find the body following Helmut and Erika Simon's initial police report.

  • While working with alpine search and rescue, Fritz's unit was caught in an avalanche.

  • The rest of the team survived, but Fritz was tragically killed.

  • Next, the cameraman who had filmed the removal of Otzi from the ice for part of a documentary,

  • Rainer Hoelz, was diagnosed with a brain tumor that would turn out to be fatal not too long

  • after the documentary was made.

  • And the deaths and misfortune wouldn't stop there.

  • Could anything about Otzi's life tell us about why his body seems to carry such terrible

  • luck with it?

  • Who was Otzi the Ice Man, really?

  • Thankfully, the extensive autopsies and x-rays conducted by the scientists at Innsbruck university

  • have given us a pretty clear picture of the man Otzi was before he became an ice mummy.

  • He was 160 cm tall, or about 5'3”, and, though his freeze-dried corpse only weighed

  • about 30 kg, scientists have estimated that he probably weighed about 50 kg or 110 pounds

  • while he was alive.

  • That might sound short by today's standards, but was probably average height for a neolithic

  • man.

  • Skeletal analysis also shows that he was probably about 45 years old at the time of his death.

  • In the time since his discovery back in the 90's, 3D scanning and forensic reconstruction

  • technology has allowed archaeologists to reconstruct what his face might have looked like.

  • The reconstruction gave him a beard, deep-set brown eyes, and a weathered face that made

  • him look very old for 45.

  • To be fair, life was much harder back then, so that was probably a very accurate decision

  • (use photo: https://cdn.mos.cms.futurecdn.net/UdHLput7nYF8D2kURfKFRQ.jpg).

  • Otzi was also covered in tattoos - 61 of them, to be precise.

  • Otzi's tattoos were mostly made up of sets of parallel lines in varying thicknesses,

  • tattooed mainly running down his legs, though he has a few on his arms and back as well.

  • He also has a cross tattooed on the back of his knee.

  • These tattoos were done with what we would today refer to as a stick-and-poke technique,

  • where pigment is rubbed into small punctures made through the top layer of skin.

  • Microscopic analysis revealed that the pigment used to create Otzi's tattoos was likely made

  • using fireplace soot, and the darkness and vibrance of the pigment suggests that Otzi

  • likely had his ink touched up multiple times during his lifetime.

  • At the time of his discovery, Otzi was the oldest mummy found to have tattoos, but in

  • 2018, mummies with tattoos were found in Egypt that dated to around the same time period.

  • While you might assume that Otzi was tatted up for cultural or aesthetic reasons, the

  • locations of his tattoos take on an interesting significance when compared to Otzi's x-rays.

  • Examinations of the bones reveal a variety of age and stress related skeletal conditions

  • such as osteochondrosis and spondylosis, particularly in the spine and leg bones.

  • The skeletal damage lines up almost exactly with the locations of Otzi's largest clusters

  • of tattoos, suggesting that the tattoos may actually have been a primitive form of acupuncture.

  • In fact, at least 9 of Otzi's 19 clusters of tattoos correspond to pressure points that

  • are still used in modern-day acupuncture and acupressure treatments.

  • This was a mind-blowing find for archaeologists, as Otzi predates the earliest recorded use

  • of acupuncture in China by about two thousand years.

  • The same x-rays that found Otzi's skeletal damage also found something a little more

  • sinister- an arrowhead lodged in his left shoulder, which corresponded to a small rip

  • in his jacket.

  • The location of the arrow suggested a wound that would have been fatal even if Otzi had

  • been able to access modern medicine.

  • The arrow had shattered his scapula and caused severe damage to his nerves, lungs, and blood

  • vessels.

  • Further analysis of Otzi showed that he had what seemed to be defensive wounds - bruises

  • and cuts to his hands, chest, and wrists, and a deep cut to his thumb which happened

  • so close to his time of death that no healing had occurred on it.

  • There were also signs of cerebral trauma, indicative of a serious blow to the head.

  • The most widely accepted theory is that Otzi died of blood loss, and that based on his

  • posture, his body was handled by someone else before rigor mortis had time to set in.

  • Whoever killed Otzi flipped him onto his stomach in order to retrieve the shaft of the arrow,

  • some broken remains of which were found still lodged in the wound.

  • More recently, DNA analysis has shown that Otzi had blood from at least four other people

  • on him when he died.

  • Blood from one person was found on his hunting knife, blood from another person was found

  • on the shoulder of his coat, and blood from two people was found on a single one of his

  • arrows.

  • The interpretation of this evidence was that some time before his death, Otzi stabbed one

  • person, shot two people with the same arrow, and carried a fourth person over his shoulder,

  • with the most common theory being that this fourth person was a fallen comrade.

  • The two most common theories for why Otzi was killed are that either he was a human

  • sacrifice, a theory supported by the discovery of similar wounds on bodies from the same

  • time period found in peat bogs, such as Tollund man and Lindow man.

  • Some have speculated that Otzi may have been a person of high status, likely a chieftain.

  • The other theory is that he was murdered, or possibly killed in a fight with whoever's

  • blood was later found on his knife and arrows.

  • Archaeologist Alessandro Vanzetti of Sapienza University, Rome, theorized that Otzi might

  • have been killed at a lower altitude and his body brought to a higher altitude to be buried

  • in the snow.

  • Vanzetti and his colleagues based this theory on a collection of stones found scattered

  • near the body, which they interpreted as a burial mound that had been disrupted by centuries

  • of glacial movement.

  • However, this theory has been widely rebuked by other scientists who have studied Otzi,

  • as the paper that introduced this theory provided no compelling evidence.

  • Furthermore, as biological anthropologist Albert Zink argued, if Otzi's body had been

  • moved up the mountain after his death, the intact blood clots found around his wounds

  • would have shown damage resulting from the change in altitude.

  • Regardless of whether he was killed on the mountain, or killed somewhere else and dragged

  • there afterwards, Otzi's death was violent, and it seems that his life was as well.

  • This feels like a textbook case of a dark ritual and a violent death leading to a restless

  • spirit, stalking and punishing all those who disturbed its remains!

  • Whether or not you're the superstitious type, the eeriness here is hard to deny.

  • Because after this, the curse struck again!

  • In 2004, the curse befell Helmut Simon himself, one of the original hikers to discover the

  • body.

  • At the time, Helmut was involved in a legal dispute over a finders fee that he had been

  • entitled by the Italian government following the discovery of Otzi.

  • In 1994, the Simons had declined a symbolic payment of 10 million lire, valued at around

  • 5 thousand euro today, far less than the 25% finders fee that the Simons were owed.

  • In 2003, the Simons filed a lawsuit, seeking equivalent to $300 thousand USD.

  • This suit would never come of anything, however, because in 2004, Helmut Simon went missing

  • while hiking the Gaiskarkogel mountain range, also in Austria.

  • When his body was eventually found, it was discovered that he had slipped and fallen

  • to his death, landing in a pose that was eerily similar to that of Otzi.

  • Bizarrely enough, the leader of the search party for Simon's body would go on to suffer

  • a fatal heart attack on the same day as Simon's funeral.

  • Since then, other scientists involved in studying Otzi have met tragic ends, mostly by illness.

  • Konrad Spindler, part of the original team to analyse the mummy, died from complications

  • related to multiple sclerosis.

  • Ironically, Spindler was openly dismissive of the curse, and frequently joked about being

  • its next victim, since he had already been diagnosed with MS at the time of Otzi's discovery.

  • This wasn't the case for Tom Loy, however.

  • Loy was an American molecular archaeologist who was instrumental in analyzing the blood

  • stains on Otzi's clothes and weapons that we talked about earlier.

  • He started working on Otzi in 1992, and during that same year, he would be diagnosed with

  • a rare blood disease that would eventually kill him years later.

  • Fortunately, the deaths caused by the curse of Otzi seem to have stopped there.

  • Since the majority of the hundreds of people who have handled the ice mummy over the years

  • are still alive and well, research into Otzi, his life, and his death have continued up

  • until the present day.

  • So, despite his apparent efforts from beyond the grave to stop them, scientists have been

  • able to uncover an insane level of detail about Otzi's life.

  • For example, the axe he had on his person at the time of death was analyzed and found

  • to have a blade made of pure forged copper.

  • Despite the fact that copper was being mined in the alps at the time Otzi would have lived,

  • molecular analysis proved that the copper wasn't from any local source.

  • In fact, it came all the way from Tuscany.

  • The blade shows clear signs of wear, and its presence among Otzi's possessions supports

  • the theory that he was a chief or other high-class individual, as this axe would've been a very

  • valuable possession.

  • Otzi also had a few health problems he was dealing with at the time of his death.

  • For example, he was suffering from whipworm, a type of intestinal parasite.

  • This adds some context to another one of Otzi's possessions - a birch basket containing berries

  • and two species of fungus that he'd apparently foraged that day.

  • One type of fungus - tinder fungus - was probably used to light fires, while the other - birch

  • fungus - was edible and has been known to be used as a treatment for parasites like

  • the ones found inside Otzi.

  • On top of the worms, Otzi is also considered to be the oldest recorded person to have suffered

  • from Lyme disease, as the bacteria known to cause it was found in his system while scientists

  • were sequencing his DNA.

  • And speaking of his DNA, Otzi's genome has been fully sequenced and the data was officially

  • published in 2012.

  • His Y-chromosome DNA possessed a gene known as G-L91, a gene that is today mostly found

  • in the region of South Corsica.

  • When Otzi's DNA was compared against the DNA taken from samples of 3,700 blood donors,

  • it was found that Otzi shared a common ancestor with 19 of those donors.

  • Those 19 people all share the G-L91 mutation, a gene that can be traced back to the ancient

  • Middle East and is associated with agriculture, as it's thought to have spread to European

  • populations through a northern migration of tribes who brought their farming practices

  • with them to Europe.

  • So, while his body may or may have a curse placed on it - a claim which science can neither

  • prove or disprove, for now - there's no doubt that Otzi the ice mummy was a truly fascinating

  • guy.

  • But personally, we'd like to leave the handling of his body to other people, just to be safe...

  • Now check outThe Deadly Curse of the Billionaire FamilyandReal Creepy Cursed Objects

  • for more cursed facts!

In September of 1991, German tourists Helmut and Erika Simon were hiking together through

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Curse of the Iceman Mummy - Explained

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    Summer posted on 2021/06/07
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