Image: Iceman
South Tyrol Museum Of Archaeology  /  AP
The 5,000-year-old mummy known as Oetzi is seen through the window of a special preservation where it is housed at an Italian museum.
updated 8/30/2007 3:34:16 PM ET 2007-08-30T19:34:16

Researchers studying Iceman, the 5,000-year-old mummy found frozen in the Italian Alps, now believe he died of head trauma, not the wound of an arrow.

Two months ago, researchers in Switzerland published an article in the Journal of Archaeological Science saying the man known as Oetzi died after an arrow tore a hole in an artery beneath his left collarbone, leading to massive blood loss, shock and heart attack.

But radiologists, pathologists and other researchers, using new forensic information and CAT scans, now say they believe blood loss from the arrow wound only made Oetzi lose consciousness. They say he died either from hitting his head on a rock when he passed out or because his attacker hit him in the head.

The researchers presented their findings Monday at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy in Bolzano. The institute was launched in July to coordinate research into Oetzi, whose remains are housed in a nearby museum.

In a statement, the academy said the findings reopened the debate over Oetzi's death, particularly since they took into account the way his body was found: face down, with his left arm across his chest.

The researchers believe he fell backward, but was turned onto his stomach by his attacker, who then pulled out his arrow — leaving the arrowhead imbedded in Oetzi's shoulder.

In a paper published in the archaeological magazine Germania, the researchers said they determined that Oetzi assumed his final position before rigor mortis set in. They also said that based on his good health and the equipment found with him, he belonged to a social class not accustomed to manual labor.

The researchers were Andreas Lippert, a prehistory professor at the University of Vienna, Paul Gostner and Patrizia Pernter, radiologists at the Bolzano regional hospital, and Eduard Egarter Vigl, a pathologist at the hospital.

Oetzi was found by hikers in 1991. In 2000, his body was temporarily thawed so researchers could take samples to study. They found that his last meal included unleavened bread and some greens. He also had eaten venison — strengthening the theory that he was a hunter.

While little else is known about Oetzi, he carried a bow, a quiver of arrows and a copper ax.

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