Ötzi the iceman died on a suspiciously full stomach

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Ötzi is the name given to the 5,300-year-old body found in the mountains between Italy and Switzerland. Archaeologists had long thought Ötzi had been murdered in the Alps, perhaps after a long chase...but his stomach tells a different story.

This natural mummy really does remain one of the most remarkable finds in archaeological history, and twenty years after his discovery researchers are still able to tease out fascinating new details about his life. We know for certain that he died high up in the Alps, and based on various wounds he appeared to suffer leading up to his demise, archaeologists had assumed foul play.

Subsequent analysis has cast doubt on the murder theory, and new tests on his stomach indicate that he definitely didn't die after a long, exhausting chase through the Alps. Rather, the stomach contains plenty of partially digested ibex meat, and the fact that it's still there at all means that he must have died less than hour after this last meal.


According to researcher Albert Zink, Ötzi was shot with an arrow and killed between 30 and 60 minutes after this meal, and that's when he began his 5,300-year journey to posthumous fame. Zink says the meal was likely a hearty one that Ötzi consumed while enjoying a rest. This certainly doesn't seem like the sort of behavior of a man expecting death within the hour, but obviously there's a lot here that's purely speculation.

If you're wondering why it took scientists twenty years after Ötzi's discovery to check the contents of his stomach, that's because they didn't actually know where it was - the organ had migrated upwards during the natural mummification process, and what researchers initially thought was the stomach was in fact the colon. This new research has also revealed that Ötzi had three gallstones, indicating that he ate a ton of animal fat. It appears Ötzi lived well and ate heartily, right up to the hour of his demise.

Via the Journal of Archaeological Science.