The Iceman is a mummy found in 1991 by some hikers in the Ötztal Alps on the border of Austria and Hungary. The mummy, affectionately dubbed Ötzi by the press, died either from exposure, or from what appears to be an arrowhead embedded in the upper back. Close examination of the arrowhead has not been attempted yet, and there is some debate whether it is an arrowhead or merely a sharp piece of rock that embedded itself after death.
Dating back 5300 years to the bronze age, Ötzi is important because of his remarkable state of preservation, which is not limited to his corpse, but to the every-day equipment that he carried on his journey in the mountains. Ötzi's equipment speaks of a man able to fend for himself in a time we can barely envision.
Ötzi had a longbow made of yew that was unstrung and not completely whittled into its final shape. He also had twelve arrows which were mostly unfletched, and two complete, but broken arrows. His arrow shafts were made of the wood of either the wayfaring tree (which produces long, straight stems of a suitable diameter) or the dogwood tree. The stone arrow-heads were flint. A hide quiver completed his collection.
Otzi's dagger was of flint, with a wooden handle. His most prized posession was a beautiful axe with a copper head and a yew handle. He also carried a hunting net.
Otzi apparently took great care to insure that he would be able to light a fire during the course of his travels. He had a wonderful fire-starting kit in a pouch on his belt. Fungus was used as tinder, and iron pyrites and flints were struck together to create sparks. There were also two birch-bark containers which contained the remains of live embers wrapped in leaves.
Otzi's clothes were functional and evocative of simpler times. His bearskin boots were insulated with dried grass. Leggings and loincloth made of deer and goat hides keep the chill away from his lower body while a jacket warmed his torso and arms. A bearskin hat topped him off. An interesting part of his ensemble was a water-resistant cape of grass woven together with fibers from the linden tree. This cape covered him from the shoulders to the knees like a poncho. Evidence seems to indicate that he died in the spring, but at the altitude that his mummy was discovered (3500 meters) Ötzi needed all the protection from the elements that his clothing would have provided.
Other finds included a thong threaded through some pieces of 'birch bracket fungus' that is known to have antibiotic properties, and tattoos which appeared to serve more than a simple decorative function - some of them above known pressure points or acupuncture points - which may indicate a medical or theraputic purpose.
Ötzi had tattoos running along his back, right knee and left ankle. These were not decorative - photographs of the corpse show that they are merely small, undistinguished symbols. Some are crosses while others are chevrons or grouped stripes. Some were actually in areas that were covered with hair. These points, and the fact that other well-preserved mummies have been found with similar, seemingly non-decorative tattoos, lead a significant number or researchers to conclude that they are evidence of some kind of therapy akin to modern acupuncture practices. Theory is that a number of pre-historic societies utilized these pressure points as a means of treating certain medical problems, and the Chinese were the only ones that preserved the discipline all the way to modern times.
Some researchers have catagorized Ötzi's fifteen tattoos and determined that they all correspond (with various degrees of precision explained by the skin stretching after death) to either traditional acupuncture points, or to so-called 'local points' and 'acupuncture meridians' which allow acupuncture practitioners to orient themselves and provide a baseline from which other acupuncture points can be found.
X-rays of Ötzi's body have indicated that he had a fairly advanced case of arthritis in his lumbar spine (and in some other areas). Forensic evidence indicates that he was in his 40s when he died. Interestingly, nine of his tattoos were located directly above acupuncture points associated with the so-called 'urinary bladder meridian' which is stimulated to treat back pain. One tattoo, on his left ankle, is considered a so-called 'master point' for treating back pain.
The remaider of his tattoos were above acupuncture points included in the gallbladder, spleen, and liver meridians - all used to treat abdominal disorder. Otzi's intestines were filled with whipworm eggs. This intestinal parasite causes significant stomach pain.
Modern-day practitioners of acupuncture seem to agree that, taken together, the groups of acupuncture points delineated by these tattoos are "a combination of points ... representing a meaningful therapeutic regimen". One person theorized that these tattoos were for "self treatment ... to puncture when pains occur".