The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2017)

Radiological and Forensic Re-evaluation of the Cause of Death of the Iceman, c. 5300 BP


1Institute of Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich, 2Department of Radiology, Bolzano Hospital, 3Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Munich

April 20, 2017 2:30, Studio 8/9/10 Add to calendar

The Copper Age Iceman (South Tyrol Museum of Archeology; “ötzi”) is one of the most famous human mummies in the world. Many studies have focused on his health and on his very final moments in life since his discovery in 1991. However, his cause of death is still being controversially debated being attributed e.g. to brain injuries or a lethal laceration of the left subclavian artery by an arrowhead. The aim of this presentation is to provide new radiological and forensic evidence on his violent cause of demise. The latest available imaging data of the Iceman have been analyzed with a particular focus on comparative forensic interpretation. The extent of internal bleeding has been newly calculated to be c. 110ml, thus an internal hematoma only as main cause of death is rather unlikely. Furthermore, re-analysis of the multiple skull lesions do not provide sufficient evidence for a local circumscript and punctual deadly blunt trauma. Based also on comparative modern forensic data, one can assume now that the laceration of the subclavian artery lead within minutes to hours to a massive mostly external trauma, and in combination with hypothermia, to his death. Additional data on possible functional implications, on a possible pseudo-aneurysm, estimated time of survival and future examinations to be planned will be provided too. The novel results will be presented also in the context of a larger, ongoing interdisciplinary investigation of this unique murder case.

Mäxi Foundation