Abstract

Much attention has been given to the Tyrolean Ice Man since his discovery in 1991. To the evolutionist he is somewhat of an enigma; a resourceful and cultured individual from an area previously thought to be a Neolithic backwater. His retarded maturational development, on the other hand, should be of immense interest to creationists—many of whom hold to a belief in greater longevity in the recent past.

Discovery of the Tyrolean ice man

On September 19, 1991 two German hikers, Helmut and Erika Simon, stumbled upon the remains of a man in the Similaun Glacier near the border between Austria and Italy. They suspected foul-play and subsequently reported the find to a local hostel owner, Markus Pirpamer, who alerted the authorities. The body and a number of associated artifacts, including tools and hunting implements, were discovered at an altitude of 3,200 metres above sea level in the Ötztaler (pronounced erts-tarler) Alpen range, in the northeastern corner of the Italian Tyrol.

The corpse (see Figure 1) has subsequently become known by a variety of names, including: the Similaun Man, the prehistoric Tyrolean Ice Man, Homo tyrolensis, the man from Hauslabjoch or, simply, Ötzi (pronounced ertsee and hereafter Oetzi).

The discovery merited considerable media attention for many months thereafter.1-5

Dating the ice man

The initial reaction of scientists concerning Oetzi’s probable antiquity was one of scepticism.6 After the corpse had been airlifted by helicopter from the glacier to Innsbruck and then to the mortuary at the University of Innsbruck’s Institute of Forensic Medicine, a number of scientists expressed the belief that the corpse was unlikely to belong to an individual who died more than 500 years ago. For instance, expert glaciologists believed it unlikely that a glacier would retain a corpse for thousands of years. Indeed, it was pointed out that most bodies freed from Austrian and Swiss glaciers belonged to individuals who had died only 50 to 70 years earlier. In this regard Bahn and Everett have commented that:

“Even the slowest glaciers are renewed every 500 to 600 years, the time it takes them to flow from their summit to the base of the tongue, and they disgorge everything they contain….

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