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The BBC's Robert Hall
"The ice man became something of a celebrity"
 real 56k

Monday, 25 September, 2000, 14:50 GMT 15:50 UK
Italy's iceman back in the freezer
Oetzi is named after the valley in which he was found
Oetzi is the oldest mummified body ever found
The body of a prehistoric man found on an Italian glacier nine years ago is again back in deep freeze, after being temporarily defrosted to allow scientists to examine him.

The 5,300-year-old body was found in the Alps at an altitude of more than 3,000m, still wearing goatskin leggings and a grass cape, with his copper-headed axe and a quiver full of arrows nearby.


The body may be kept frozen for another 20 to 30 years, until there is better science

Professor Othmar Gaber, University of Innsbruck
One of the scientists involved told BBC News Online that they hoped to learn more about where and how he lived, after defrosting him for 16 hours and taking samples of his teeth, bones and intestinal tissue.

The man is the oldest and best-preserved mummy ever found, but a dispute between Italy and Austria over ownership of the remains has prevented in-depth research until now.

DNA samples

Professor Othmar Gaber of the University of Innsbruck in Austria said the scientific team hoped to extract DNA from the tissue samples.

Speaking to BBC News Online from the site of the tests in Bolzano in Italy, Professor Gaber said the other samples would allow them to work out where he came from.

The Italian Alps
The iceman was found by tourists high up in the Alps
The researcher said the remains "were in good condition". What is important, he said, is that the remains "still have water inside, it has not dried, unlike the mummies found in Egypt."

Another member of the team, a forensic scientist from Glasgow who took samples of skin, said the man's ribs were broken and he must have suffered a bad fall. The assumption until now is that the man was caught in an alpine storm and froze to death, aged about 45.

He was 1.65 metres (5ft 5in) tall, and weighed about 40kg.

The prehistoric shepherd is known as Oetzi, after his resting place in the Oetz Valley, where he was found by tourists.

Ownership squabble

When he was first discovered, he was taken to Innsbruck in Austria.

It was finally agreed that the remains were actually found just metres inside the Italian border, and he was transferred to the Bolzano Museum of Archaeology, in Italy's Alpine Alto Adige region in 1998.

He was moved in a refrigerated truck accompanied by police cars and a helicopter because of fears that Austrian nationalists would protest.

For the past few years, he has been housed in a windowed freezer unit, kept at a constant -6C (21F).

Professor Gaber said results from the tests were not likely to be known for six months.

He said the scientific team hoped to keep the body in deep freeze for "perhaps another 20 to 30 years, until there is better science," when new tests would shed even more light on his past.

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See also:

17 Jan 98 | Sci/Tech
Italy's iceman comes home
28 Mar 98 | Despatches
Italian iceman goes on show
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