• Imagining History

Who was Ötzi the Iceman? - An Easy Guide

Updated: Apr 22


The Iceman's reconstruction by Alfons & Adrie Kennis © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Ochsenreiter

Some mummies, such as Egyptian mummies, are deliberately mummified by other people. In the case of the Egyptians, they pull out a corpse’s organs, coat the skin in oils, wrap it in bandages and stuff them with charms in order to preserve the body for – fingers crossed – hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of years.


Some mummies however, are created by natural fluke. Someone who perhaps didn't mean to become a mummy, but it just kind of happened by accident after they died. Bad luck if you’re the person who ends up mummified, good luck if you’re the archaeologists studying that mummified person thousands of years later.


Such is the case with Ötzi the Iceman. He’s called the iceman because, funnily enough, his body was found buried in the ice by two German tourists. When was he discovered? Way back in a long forgotten time; 1991.



Ötzi was found right here © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Dario Frasson

Ötzi was discovered in the Ötztal Alps, and, thanks to being covered in ice and quickly frozen, his bod is in remarkably good nick. Which is particularly impressive when you consider that Ötzi is over five thousand years old! That’s right, he died around 3350 and 3105 BC. Saying ‘died’ makes Ötzi's demise sounds peaceful though. In truth it was anything but peaceful because the poor fella was probably murdered. (If you didn't react with an over-dramatic gasp here, feel free to re-read that last sentence and try it again!)



That’s because an arrow head was found lodged in his left shoulder. He also suffered a severe blow to the head – ouch! However, some historians reckon that Ötzi probably took a few of his attackers with him, because blood spots belonging to four other people were found on his knife, quiver and coat.


That’s not all scientists have discovered from Ötzi either, they’ve learnt loads about his life. Check these out and impress your teacher with all your knowledge!


  • Ötzi was 46 years old when he died and was 160cm tall.

  • Ötzi had brown hair and brown eyes, though his eyes were originally thought to be blue.

  • Ötzi had an impressive 61 tattoos on his body. These weren’t of mermaids, anchors and John Cena, oh no. Instead each tattoo was a black line. The tattoos were drawn using a pigment made from soot.

  • Ötzi was quite the natty dresser. He was clad in a cloak weaved from grass and a coat, belt, leggings, loin cloth and shoes made from different animal furs. Oh, and his shoes even had shoelaces – amazing!

  • Ötzi was well armed, he was equipped with a copper axe, a knife and twelves arrows nestled in a quiver. Ötzi likely made all these tools himself. Though he hadn’t finished his bow yet; an unfinished yew longbow was found amongst his possessions.

  • Ötzi was getting on a bit and had his fair share of aches and pains. He had dodgy knees and a sore back, hips and shoulders. I know how you feel Ötzi, my knees are all kinds of creaky. Heck, they sound like a floorboard being stood on in a haunted house.

  • Ötzi had been in several scrapes during his life, he had suffered from a broken nose and ribs.

  • Finally, due to his stomach contents, scientists know what Ötzi’s final meal was, a nutritious and balanced hodge podge of ibex, red deer meat and einkorn wheat. Fun fact: it took researchers eighteen years to find Ötzi’s stomach as it had moved during mummification to a position under his ribs.


Scientists are learning new things from Ötzi every day, about his life and the lives of those around him. To find out more head to Ötzi the Iceman’s very own website.