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On September 19, 1991 a couple hiking along an Alpine ridge stumbled upon a frozen, intact corpse melting out of a glacier. He was dubbed "the Iceman," and his discovery—along with the realization that he was actually 5,000 years old—set off a whirlwind of political, scientific, and media activity that made him an overnight sensation. In this remarkable and dramatic book, Brenda Fowler takes readers through the bizarre odyssey that began in the Stone Age and continued for years after the Iceman was unearthed.
alpine incident =
corpse found at hauslabjoch (niederjochferner) - advance report on 19th september 1991 around 12:00 p.m. climbers coming down from the finail summit found a partially melted-out corpse in the vicinity of the hauslabjoch (a little below it) on the niederjochferner. it is practically standing up in the ice. only head and shoulder areas are sticking out of the ice. the caretaker of the similaun Hfitte, markus pirpamer reported this to the gp [gendarmerie post] in soelden. He himself was on the site this afternoon. based on the equipment it is a mountain accident that happened many years ago. in vent it was learned that since the year 1938 a music professor from verona named capsoni, who was on the way from the schoene aussicht via the hauslabjoch to the similaun Hfitte is still missing. the recovery of the corpse will follow as far as can be seen on 9-20-1991. a further report will be submitted.
Shortly after noon, the happy group reached the summit. Toward Italy, they looked down on a boulder-strewn and treeless landscape that merged gradually with the pine forests and then ended in a burst of emerald green and marine blue. These were the pastures and artificial lake at Vernagt. The view into Austria was not nearly as inviting. Though the decline was more gradual, the slopes were draped in deep snow and ice. To the northeast, more craggy Otztal mountains, like choppy waves on a stormy sea, extended to the horizon.
As exciting as the panorama was, no one wanted to linger on the narrow ledge, where they were buffeted by gusts coming up from the Schnalstal. The two couples exchanged addresses and then quit the summit. Since the Austrians were headed into the Otztal, the couples' paths soon diverged, and they paused to say warm goodbyes.
The younger couple headed down the rocky slope and the Simons turned to canvass the landscape ahead for a marker that would get them on the trail to the lodge. Erika spotted a pile of rocks with a stick coming out the top about one hundred yards away, and the couple began hiking toward it. Known colloquially as a Steinmanndl, or "little stone man," in German, such man-made markers were stacked up every so often, and occasionally planted with a stick, to guide tourists along sections of Alpine trails. A minute later, they reached a low ridge of rock that formed a wall around a long trench. The floor of the trench was filled with melted water, ice, and snow. To circumvent the water, they proceeded to one side, moving along the inside of the trench, over snow and rock. Helmut was walking in the lead when he suddenly caught sight of something dark against the white snow. Just a half hour earlier he had been outraged to see broken glass from a champagne bottle on the summit of the Finail. At first he thought it was just more trash, and he silently cursed the lazy tourist who had done it. But his wife's next words came in the same instant in which he, too, recognized what he was seeing.
"Look, it's a person!"' Erika exclaimed.
Aghast, they halted, steps from a human body stuck in the ice. Instinctively, they veered from the macabre scene and scrambled up four or five steps onto a ledge in the low ridge that nearly enveloped the trench. In the next instant, Helmut sprinted back to try to recall the Austrian couple. After some eighty yards he stopped, yelling their names against the wind. He scanned the landscape below but, seeing no one, he turned and dashed back to Erika, who was still standing speechless on the ledge above the body. Helmut's heart pounded.
There, protruding from a solid bed of ice, was a torso, face down. Not a hair remained on the head. The shoulders and upper back were naked. The skin was brown and stretched so tautly across the back and shoulders that the ribs were visible. It looked emaciated. A dozen ideas flickered through their minds. They wondered who it could be and what had happened. Since the shoulders were so narrow, Erika decided it must be the corpse of a woman.
The face appeared to rest on a cushion of slush and ice. Clumps of dark stringy material underneath the chin reminded Erika of seaweed on a beach. On the back of the head was a circular break in the skin. It looked like a wound, but the Simons did not think too much about it or even wonder why the skin was still intact. They did not have much to compare this to.
Helmut started removing his camera from its case, but Erika protested and admonished him for even thinking of taking a photograph. It was the height of disrespect to make an image of a dead person, she said.
But Helmut insisted. If this were his relative, he would want to know exactly what had happened. Still on the ledge several feet above the corpse, he crouched and aimed his camera. Then, thinking better, he pushed the telephoto button, the lens glided out, and he snapped the picture. He could have taken another, but he thought one was enough.
Emboldened, Helmut then descended into the trench for a closer look at the corpse. Erika stayed glued to the ledge. Not far from the head, Helmut noticed something lying on the ice, and he stooped to pick it up. It was a flattened bundle wrapped in white birch bark and apparently tied up with leather laces. As he turned it in his hands, he noted how fragile and soggy it was. To Erika it looked like something a bird might have carried up. Helmut had no idea what it could be or even whether it was anything at all. After another moment's contemplation, he tossed it aside.
Nearby was a piece of a blue rubber ski clip, the kind he himself had used a decade earlier to bind his skis together. Helmut did not really consider whether this object had belonged to the person whose corpse now lay here in front of them. The Simons did not speak much. Neither did they touch the corpse. Moments earlier, they had been chatting merrily with their young friends, and now, abruptly, they had stumbled up
A Note on Sources
Prologue - No Room in the Helicopter
1. The First to See It
2. A Difficult Recovery
3. A Great Moment for Science
4. Italy Is Watching
5. Evidence of Distress
6. The Mummy to Market
7. A Castrated Egyptian
8. Spindler's Story
9. Expanding Markets
10. "A Proper Forefather"
11. The Place He Came to Lie