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Explain the Life and Death of the Iceman

There are many different theories and conclusions about the death of the Iceman. Konrad Spindler, who led the team studying the body, concluded that Iceman was a shepherd living in a farming community close to the Val Venosta. Iceman was well equipped for long absences and his general health was good although he did have some health problems.

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Most scholars’ opinions however, are conflicted about how and why he died. According to Spindler, Iceman was a shepherd and may have lived in a farming village near the Val Venosta.

Most historians agree that Iceman came from the Val Venosta are because of the similarity in flint found on Iceman and at the Val Venosta site. Perhaps the most convincing reason that Iceman came from the Val Venosta was that it was only 20km, a few hours walk, away. Konrad Spindler’s research in 1993 revealed harvested grains in his clothing and the threshing remains in his ember carrier. These, coupled with evidence that the Iceman did not make his own clothes (due to clumsy attempts at repair), suggest contact with a farming community.

This tells us that the Iceman could have lived in a village or town close to the Val Venosta, and, that he died soon after the harvest. Judging by the equipment he was carrying, the Iceman had probably had experience travelling away from his village as his tools and weapons enabled him to hunt and defend himself. The Iceman carried with him a yew bow, a quiver made from a fur bag with a hazel wood rod tied to the side for support. 4 arrows (12 of which were incomplete), a flint knife with an ash handle and scabbard, an axe with a copper blade attached with leather thronging. Two mushrooms on leather strips for “medicinal” purposes. A retoucher for Iceman’s dagger, arrowheads & axe, a net of grass strings, a backpack with hazel wood frame. Two cylindrical birch-bark containers, and, a belt pouch & contents such a flint scraper, a possible drilling tool, a blade for carving, an awl for punching holes in leather and tree fungi, possibly for tinder.

All these weapons and pieces of equipment would have helped the Iceman to defend himself from other humans or wild animals. He would have also been able to hunt for sufficient food to sustain himself. Based in the evidence, historians have assumed that Iceman may have been a shepherd and the weapons used to defend his flock. Based on his equipment, an equally valid theory is that the Iceman was a nomadic hunter. We can never be sure of his exact occupation. Iceman’s general health was relatively good, however, he did have some health problems.

His health problems included; a low level of lead pollution, a high cholesterol reading (with some blood clotting on the heart), degeneration of bone joints, and, worn teeth. Despite these health issues, Iceman died between the ages of 35-40, quite old for that period of time. The Iceman’s body also bore several injuries because, on his left, were fractured ribs that had healed over time and, on the right, he had four broken ribs. The ribs are estimated to have broken 2-3 weeks before his death because his right arm showed signs of not having been used to lessen the pain.

The tattoos on Iceman’s body were once thought to have had some ritualistic meaning, but, after bone scans were done the degeneration of his bone joints became known, the historians concluded that the tattoos were a treatment for the pain he was feeling. Many scholars have different opinions over how and why the Iceman died. Konrad Spindler’s theory is that, returning to his village after the summer grazing in the Alps, he was then involved in some violent incident and was forced to flee.

The evidence Spindler presented to back his theory was the quality of Iceman’s equipment. Some of it was damaged or lost, indicating prolonged use with no chance to repair or replace items. Spindler’s other evidence was the broken ribs which supported his idea of a violent incident. In 2001 a CAT-scan revealed an arrowhead embedded in the Iceman’s shoulder. This told historians that Iceman had definitely been involved in a violent incident and, in 2002, the arrowhead was examined and it was discovered that the arrow had come from the Southern Alpine region.

Professor A. Pedrotti concluded that the arrow had probably been fired by Iceman’s own people. In 2003, DNA analysis of Iceman’s clothes and weapons indicated blood from several people. The blood of two people was found on one arrowhead alone. Dr. T. Loy argued that Iceman had fired his arrow into two enemies, retrieving the precious weapon each time. However, he too had been wounded in the back, and had bled to death in the place he was found 5000 years later. There have been many different theories regarding the life and death of Iceman.

If any new evidence comes to light the doubtless there will be many more theories surrounding him. But, possibly the most agreed on theory is that of Konrad Spindler who claims that Iceman was a shepherd ;living in a farming community close to the Val Venosta. He was well equipped for long absences and his general health was good but he did have some health problems. The Iceman then died after a violent dispute with some of his own people. And, while that seem very likely, there will still be many conflicted opinions about how and why the Iceman died.