Oetzi fast became a sensation, not just because he proved to be more than 5,000 years old, but because his remains were so well-preserved, allowing paleontologists to uncover new details about the Stone Age in Europe. On September 19, 1991, Helmut and Erika Simon from Nuremburg were hiking at an altitude of 3,210 meters (10,500 feet) in the Italy’s South Tyrol alps, according to an account published online by the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology.
Toward the end of a hot summer, much of the ice and snow had melted. Protruding out of a icy patch, face down on exposed rock and embedded in a gully, they noticed what looked like the top half of a human corpse. The Simons assumed they had discovered the remains of a hiker, perhaps killed by avalanche a few years earlier. They took a picture, and headed off to report their find, according to the museum’s website.
But Oetzi turned out to be what paleontologists call a “wet mummy”, a rare and precious discovery, where the corpse’s individual cells have retained enough humidity to allow scientists to conduct detailed investigations on the remains.Until the Simons spotted Oetzi “such a well preserved find of a human several thousand years old – fully clothed and with numerous personal belongings – had never before been seen anywhere in the world,” the South Tyrol museum says online.
“The Ice Man” was also a natural mummy, meaning his flesh was not altered by the burial rites practiced in some societies, like ancient Egypt, which further expanded the corpse’s reseach potential.
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