A Possible Creationist Perspective On The Tyrolean ( Oetztaler ) Ice Man

A Possible Creationist Perspective on the Tyrolean (Oetztaler) Ice Man
by Greg Beasley

Much attention has been given to the Tyrolean Ice Man since his discovery in 1992. 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

Figure 1. The Tyrolean Ice Man as exhumed from the Similaun Glacier.
On September 19, 1992 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. Any corpse found within a glacier is usually crushed or torn to bits; for example, the body of what is thought to be a Swiss mercenary from the sixteenth century was fragmented over a 100 m2 area when found in the 1980s. The average static pressure of a glacier is 14 to 20 tons m2, and its mass is filled with convection currents, faults, subduction zones and rocks. How, then, could Similaun man have remained intact in situ for more than 5,000 years? His preservation is little short of miraculous … ”7
The initial reaction of scientists concerning Oetzi’s probable antiquity was one of scepticism.

Oetzi was initially described as being of Bronze Age.8 (The Bronze Age is dated from c. 3,000 BC in the Middle East and from c. 2,000 BC in western Europe and Asia).9 However, more recent assessments attribute him to the late Neolithic10,11 or chalcolithic (Copper Age) period.12

The initial results of radiocarbon tests on grass samples taken from Oetzi’s boots revealed ages ranging from between 4,250 ±70 and 4,230 ±90 years BP (calibrated to 4,616 and 4,866 years BP).13,14 These dates were produced independently at radiocarbon laboratories at the University of Uppsala (in Sweden) and Gif-sur-Yvette (Paris, France) respectively and at the request of the University of Innsbruck’s Botanical Institute. The preliminary results were released to the press by Professor Klaus Oeggl in December, 1991.15

Separate radiocarbon datings were produced for the corpse’s skin and bone at the behest of the University of Innsbruck’s Institute of Anatomy. The calibrated results, released in February of the following year, ranged between 5,200 and 5,300 years BP and were carried out by radiocarbon laboratories at the Universities of Oxford (England) and Zurich (Switzerland).16,17

The uncalibrated radiocarbon datings for the grass were subsequently modified/reworked (in January, 1992) to 4,450 ±75 (Uppsala) and 4,550 ±60 years BP; rendering them in close conformity with those for the corpse.18

To date, none of the artifacts found in association with Oetzi’s corpse have been dated.19 Why this should be so is not clear at this point in time.

Associated cultural artifacts
It is apparent from a single photograph, taken by the Ice Man’s co-discoverers, Helmut and Erika Simon, that Oetzi was naked when first found.20 His clothes and a number of tools and hunting implements were discovered some distance away from the corpse.21 They reveal Oetzi (and his people) to be remarkably sophisticated and adept.

Sandstein, wikipedia.org

Replicas of Ötzi's clothes
(1) Oetzi’s Clothes
According to Jaroff, the Ice Man was:

“… well prepared for the Alpine chill. His basic garment was an unlined fur robe made of patches of deer, chamois and ibex skin. Though badly repaired at many points, the robe had been cleverly whipstitched together with threads of sinew or plant fibre, in what appears to be a mosaic-like pattern, belying the popular image of cavemen in crude skins.”22
A woven grass cape, similar to those used by Tyrolean shepherds as late as the early part of the present century, was also recovered from the site.23 It is thought that the Ice Man wore this cape over his fur upper garment.

The upper garment is thought to have taken the form of a cloak or cape.24 It extended from the Ice Man’s shoulders to his knees and shows no sign of inlaid sleeves.25 The back of his garment was badly tattered; a by-product of wear generated by his haversack (see below).

The Ice Man wore a pair of leggings, which were strapped to a belt at waist level. A fur tongue, attached to the lower end of each legging, slipped into the neck of the Ice Man’s shoes.26 Support took the form of a loin-cloth, which extended from the front to the back of his belt.27 A belt-pouch, which contained a variety of artifacts (including three flint implements, a bone awl and a piece of tinder), was also attached to the belt.28 The flint implements included a blade scraper, drill and thin blade.

Oetzi also possessed a well-worn pair of leather shoes, stuffed with grass (for added warmth/insulation).29

More recently, an Italian expedition has turned up another item of Oetzi’s ‘wardrobe’; a piece of fur thought to represent a cap.30

(2) Oetzi’s Tools and Hunting Implements
According to Leon Jaroff the Ice Man’s equipment revealed “… an unexpected degree of sophistication.”31 The implements included a copper axe, an incomplete bow, a quiver with no less than 14 arrow shafts, a knife or dagger with flint blade and wooden handle, two birch-bark canisters and a net of grass.32 The dagger,33 along with a retoucheur,34 are thought to have been attached to the belt on either side of the pouch.35 A variety of functions have been ascribed to the net, including carrying bag (Jaroff36 ) and bird trap (Spindler37 ).

The axe-head was first thought to have been manufactured in bronze.38 However, subsequent analysis revealed its composition to be almost pure copper.39 The axe blade, which measured only 9.5 cm in length,40 was flanged along all four edges—which made for a very secure fitting to the shaft.41 The blade reflected what has come to be known as the ‘Remedello style’; a style first identified at the Remedello Sotto burial site (c. 2700 BC) in northern Italy.42 The axe-shaft was manufactured from yew and the blade fastened to the shaft by means of leather strapping and birch-bark glue.43,44

The bow, although incomplete, was carved from timber taken from a yew tree—widely regarded as the best bow-wood available in Central Europe and used in the manufacture of famous English long-bows.45 The bow was broken-off at one end and was yet to be notched for reception of the bow-string.46 Its length has been estimated to be of the order of 180cm or nearly six feet, which renders it longer than its owner’s height.47 Of particular interest is the fact that the yew is relatively scarce in the Alps. This would seem to indicate that the Ice Man had searched out specific raw materials for his bow.48

The arrow shafts, 14 in all, were carved from wayfaring (genus Virburnum) and dogwood (genus Cornus) branches.49 Only two of the arrow shafts were complete with flint tips and feathers.50 The feathers were affixed with a resinous substance and set at an angle that would induce an in-flight spin (to maintain a true course). With reference to their design the noted Austrian archaeologist, Hans Notdürfter, commented (with a measure of surprise) that: “It is significant that ballistic principles were known and applied.”51 Spindler, on the other hand, has noted that one of the two completed arrows is of composite-type; comprising two kinds of wood.52 This could either be by design, such as in the case of a genuine composite arrow (which is designed to break into two sections upon impact), or by virtue of attempts to re-use two previously broken arrows.

The quiver also contained an untreated sinew that could have been made into a bowstring, a ball of cord, the thorn of a deer’s antler (which is thought to have been used to skin animals), and four antler tips bound together with grass, as well as some flint and pitch.53-55

Two birch-bark containers were also recovered from the burial site—one of which contained grass or hay, leaves and charcoal. It is thought that this container was used to carry live embers.56

Also recovered was a small flint knife/dagger with a wooden handle.57

The Ice Man carried much of his gear in a “primitive” haversack , mounted on a U-shaped wooden frame.58 The frame was composed of hazel (Coryills avellana) rods and two short boards of larch (Larix decidua),59 the latter of which possibly fulfilled a bracing function.

(3) Oetzi’s Jewellery and Tattoos
Also recovered from the Oetztaler site was a piece of jewellery or talisman, comprising a polished stone circlet attached to a tassel of string via a hole through the stone’s centre.60

It is also possible that Oetzi wore an ornamental stone (or earring) attached to his right earlobe. A pit-like and sharp-edged depression on the right earlobe is thought by Seidler et al. to indicate the presence of “… an ornamental stone filled into the earlobe a long time before his death.”61

Also recovered were two fungi which were attached to a knotted leather string.62,63 One has since been identified as Piptoporus hetulinus, a fungus rich in the antibacterial agent, ‘polyporenic acid C’.64 Commenting on this discovery, Roberts stated that:

“Archaeologists have never seen anything like this arrangement from this period. The fungi contain chemical substances now known to be antibiotic.”65
Finally, mention should be made of a number of tattoos on the body of Similaun Man. These tattoos have, according to Konrad Spindler, been coloured using a charcoal dye.66 (Coghlan, on the other hand, suggests that they were produced using vegetable dyes67 ). They include a blue-grey series of parallel lines on the Ice Man’s lower back (near his spinal column) and left calf, a cross behind his right knee and stripes on the right ankle.68,69 According to Jaroff:

“Some scientists suggest that the designs might have been used to mark the passage from youth into manhood.”70
(The possible significance of this suggestion will be explored, at length, later in this paper.) Spindler, by way of contrast, suggested (in 1992) that they can signify almost anything, including membership of a particular family, tribe, village or class.71 More recently, however, he has indicated a leaning towards therapeutic cauterization and branding.72

Assuming that the radiocarbon dates for Similaun Man are reliable (at least in a relative sense) the Ice Man’s tattoos may well represent the earliest documented instance of such a practice.73 The practice is said to have been common amongst the Thracians (5th century BC)74 and Sjøvold75 (citing Rudensko76 ) describes evidence of it on the bodies of ancient Skyths from Siberia (585 BC). At least one other authority has suggested that tattooing was practiced by the ancient Egyptians as early as 2000 BC.77

Controversy surrounding the ice man
Controversy has surrounded Oetzi, virtually from the time of his discovery. Firstly, there were cries of outrage concerning the methods employed in the exhumation of the corpse.78,79 Pneumatic chisels, ice-picks and ski-poles were used in several attempts to prise the corpse from the enveloping ice. The corpse was damaged in a number of ways during these efforts.80,81

Secondly, there were the custodial battles between the Austrian and Italian governments concerning ‘ownership’ of the find.82,83 It is interesting to note that most of Oetzi’s artifacts were taken to the Roman-Germanic Museum in Mainz (Germany) for restoration.84

Thirdly, there is the issue of Oetzi’s ‘missing’ genitalia.85,86 The so-called ‘castration’ theory, which received widespread publicity in the media, has been thoroughly refuted by Spindler in his excellent book, The Man in the Ice.87

More recently, there have been a spate of accusations concerning the very authenticity of the Ice Man (as a genuine alpine death).88-90 These accusations culminated recently in the assertion that the mummified remains of the Ice Man had been ‘imported’ from Peru (South America) and ‘planted’ at the Oetztal site as part of a carefully orchestrated hoax.91 These accusations have persisted—despite having been soundly refuted in Spindler’s book.92 Nevertheless, the issue has been seemingly resolved, once for all, with the simultaneous announcement that separate studies of the Ice Man’s mtDNA have established Oetzi’s origins as being distinctly European.93-95

Anatomical characteristics of the ice man
The Similaun Ice Man stood between 156 and 160 cm (5 feet 1½ inches and 5 feet 3 inches) tall and possessed an estimated cranial capacity between 1,503 and 1,564 cc.96,97 The cranium is mesocephalic in shape and bordering on dolichocephalic.98 According to Sjøvold99 there is no evidence of cranial thickening or flattening and brow-ridge development falls within the normal range for modern Europeans. On the other hand, Spindler100 draws particular attention to the fact that the Ice Man possessed strongly developed superciliary ridges, a receding forehead, rather angular eye-sockets and marked mastoid processes. His frontal sinuses, on the other hand, were, according to Sjøvold, moderately well developed and did not appear to deviate from the European norm.101

Only 11 of the 12 pairs of ribs were fully-developed in the Ice Man; the twelfth pair were missing, In fact, no joint surfaces were to be observed on the twelfth pectoral vertebra.102 The lumbar region of his spine, on the other hand, exhibited “… medium degenerative changes (osteochondrosis and also slight spondylosis).”103 Likewise, his knee-joints and ankles exhibited “ … medium degree wear-and-tear phenomena.”104 These features may be a direct consequence of a robust and physically active lifestyle.

The Ice Man’s pubic bone angle is described as being relatively small; clearly denoting his sex.105

His stature is described by Seidler et al. as falling within the known range of variation for previously described Neolithic populations from Italy and Switzerland, whilst his facial form is regarded as being hyperorthognate.106 Jaroff, on the other hand, suggests that although Oetzi was a fit man, his height was short even for his day.107 (For comparative metrical data on stature estimates of Neolithic Europeans, see Formicola.108 )

Oetzi is also thought to have weighed around 50 kg (or 7 st 12lb).109 He is also said to have possessed curly, brownish-black hair.110 Although bald when recovered from the glacier, hair loss is regarded as having occurred111 post-mortem. Samples of hair up to 9 cm (or 3.5 in) in length were found amid the remains of his c1othing.112 It has been suggested that the relatively short length of these hairs (numbering about 1,000) indicates that Oetzi (and his relatives) had regular haircuts, Jaroff113 has suggested that this is far earlier than anthropologists had previously believed to be the case.

Jaroff114 noted that:

“An examination of (Oetzi’s) body revealed no sign of disease and no wounds beyond those that were inflicted during his exhumation.”
Likewise, Ross indicated that computerised axial tomography (CAT) scans had revealed no abnormalities in Oetzi’s bones and organs.115 This has since been shown to be incorrect. In fact, x-rays of the Ice Man’s thoracic region have revealed no less than two serial traumas. Writing of these, Spindler states:

“The fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth ribs on the left show healed fractures, suggesting a one-time multiple trauma. All five ribs have healed well, even though some distortion remains. Serial rib fractures occur mainly in people at risk of falling: they are diagnosed chiefly in drunks, sportsmen and mountaineers. The Iceman, therefore, long before he died, had an accident which crushed the left side of his thorax.”116
He then goes on to state that:

“A totally different picture, however, is presented by further fractures on the right. Here the X-ray shows that the third, fourth, fifth and sixth ribs are broken and are somewhat out of position. In this case there is no callus formation, no trace of the bones having healed, a fact which limits the time-frame in which the break happened to no more than two months before the Iceman’s death.”117
Now the Ice Man’s long bone epiphyses and diaphyses were all fused.118 This would seem to rule out the possibility that Oetzi was still a juvenile at the time of his death. On the other hand, Sjøvold has indicated that traces of trabecular thickening have been observed in the area of the former metaphyseal plate.119

One final oddity. High resolution tomography has revealed slight arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) in the area of the base of the brain.120 This is usually associated with advanced age; yet Spindler suggests that in Oetzi’s case:

“Even if the Iceman’s age at death is taken to have been thirty-five to forty, the changes must have occurred relatively early in life.”121
He then invokes what he terms a ‘daring’ hypothesis to account for this phenomenon; that the Ice Man

“… had a metabolic susceptibility to early arteriosclerosis, possibly due to a high blood cholesterol level.”122
Could such a phenomenon be the down-side to a major shift in dietary emphasis in the period following the biblical Flood?

Anthropological perspectives
According to Notdürfter, Oetzi “… look(ed) like one of our well-tanned (European) ancestors”.123 In 1992 Coghlan indicated that a forthcoming research programme would focus upon the Ice Man’s DNA, in an effort to establish his relationship to modern Europeans.124 Seidler and his colleagues, however, cautioned against such claims and optimism—recognising the inherent dangers of extrapolating from a single specimen. They stated:

“We have no knowledge about the variability of the population from which he descended. Especially the examination of small, sometimes locally and closely neighbouring Late Neolithic populations shows that there are remarkable differences of types.”125
Whilst it was thought possible to draw some tentative conclusions from the skeletal (and tissue) remains, it remained to be seen whether sufficient non-degraded chromosomal DNA could be retrieved from Oetzi’s body to establish a definitive genetic relationship with living European populations. Because most of Oetzi ‘s chromosomal DNA had decayed away, researchers were forced to turn their investigations to his mtDNA126 (The results of these investigations were discussed earlier.)

Speculation has also been rife concerning Oetzi’s occupation. The possibilities are many—farmer, explorer, trader, hunter, prospector or shepherd to list but a few of those already suggested.127-131

Circumstances of death
There has also been considerable discussion concerning the circumstances surrounding Oetzi’s death.

There has also been considerable discussion concerning the circumstances surrounding Oetzi’s death. Ross132 has noted that Oetzi’s corpse did not feature any cuts or bruises, and this would appear to rule out the possibility of foul play. After an exhaustive examination of the corpse Seidler et al. concluded that the Ice Man “ … was in a state of exhaustion perhaps as a consequence of adverse weather conditions.”133 Coghlan, quoting Sjøvold, suggests that the Ice Man “ … may have lost his way in a freezing fog which suddenly swept up the mountain.”134

It is thought that mummification (dehydration) had taken place prior to Oetzi ‘s body being enveloped in ice.135 The fact that Oetzi’s body tissues had not been transformed into white grave wax (adipocere)—the normal state of glacial corpses—gives strong credence to this view.

Ironically, it would appear that the Ice Man died probably some time in early autumn; a pile of sloeberries (which usually ripen during September) being found at the burial site.136,137

A portion of the skin covering at the rear of the Ice Man’s cranium had been removed (possibly by a bird) shortly after death.138

As stated previously, the corpse was damaged in a number of ways during exhumation (including severe damage to the left pelvic region, the release of the caput femoris and, possibly, the slight fracturing of the distal humerus shaft).139 These ‘injuries’, along with several others sustained during glacial interment, must be isolated from the corpse’s anatomical and physiological condition prior to death.

In assessing the Ice Man’s condition at the time of death we are confronted with some interesting contradictions. For instance, Spindler has suggested that Oetzi possessed an extremely strong physique.140 Yet elsewhere he also notes that the Ice Man had no stored fat reserves.141 This, together with his broken ribs and the incomplete state of many of his hunting implements, suggests that his last days were a time of great stress. Indeed, Spindler has gone so far as to speculate that the Ice Man “… felt himself pursued” and that

“… There must have been some reason for him to risk the ascent to the main ridge with these massive handicaps”.142
A possible creationist perspective on the ice man
Of particular interest to the palaeoanthropologist is the age of the individual(s) at the time of their death. Such estimates are usually made after a careful comparison of several indicators of maturational development; for instance, the thickness of the person’s cranial bones, the extent of obliteration of their cranial sutures, the state of long bone development and whether fusion of the diaphyses and epiphyses has taken place, wear and stage of development of the dentition, general condition of the teeth and jaws, deformation of the bones, and incidence of osteoarthritis and other age-related osteological changes and disorders.143,144 The indicators employed in the determination of age will vary in accordance with the stage of maturational development of the individual.145 Even then the estimated age(s) may not always be reliable.146 Indeed, different indicators may yield widely disparate estimates of age and this has certainly been so in Oetzi ‘s case.

One also needs to recognise that maturational development can proceed at different rates in different, though contemporaneous, cultures.147,148 The rate may also have varied greatly throughout human history.149,150 Let us now set about examining several of the age estimates for the Ice Man.

Coghlan151 has noted that, like many skeletons from this age, Oetzi’s teeth have been worn down. Brothwell also suggested that:

“By the age of 40 to 50, most Bronze Age people had very worn teeth—they had to chew coarse food, from raw meat to wholemeal breads. Their breads often contained stony material from the querns in which the grain was ground.”152
Seidler and his colleagues153 have taken these observations one step further; suggesting that the remarkably strong degree of abrasion on the front teeth indicates an age of between 35 and 40. They then go on to add:

“Sometimes, however, an extremely high degree of abrasion can be found in juvenile individuals from Late Neolithic and Bronze Age finds.”154
Sjøvold has also noted that the upper and lower molars are also rather worn.155 Similar patterns and degrees of wear have also been documented for young adult and juvenile Neanderthals and (proto) Cro-magnoids.156-158 Yet despite such wear, there is no evidence of dental caries at all in the Ice Man’s teeth.159

In modern man the degree of enamel wear is usually a function of dietary and other cultural factors. When examining the teeth of ancient man palaeoanthropologists often encounter degrees of wear hitherto unknown in modern populations. Such attrition is usually attributed to a combination of factors—advancing years of the individual being examined, diet and cultural habits. Such explanations are often difficult to accept for several reasons. Firstly, it is difficult to establish, with any degree of certainty, that early man ate meat raw. Indeed, in Oetzi’s case, there seems to be circumstantial evidence to the contrary. For instance, we have already noted that Oetzi was in possession of two birch-bark canisters, one of which is thought to have been used to carry embers from one campsite to another.160 Secondly, he was in possession of tinder.161 This being the case, it seems reasonable to assume that he cooked his game prior to eating it. Thirdly, there is the obvious problem of accounting for such wear in juveniles.162 Fourthly, most transformists subscribe to the belief that the average life expectancy of our ancient ancestors was decidedly less than that of modern man; yet the teeth of our ancestors, with few exceptions, seem to be better equipped for sustained wear and tear than our own!163,164

Returning, then, to the Ice Man, the degree of wear appears to be incompatible with Oetzi’s dental age in other respects. For instance, studies by Sjøvold and others have revealed that Oetzi did not possess third molars (that . is, wisdom teeth).165,166 Whilst Sjøvold167 has suggested that the third molars are ‘congenitally missing’ and that Oetzi is representative of a group of prehistoric European skeletons in which the third molars are absent, several other anatomists associated with the team investigating Oetzi’s remains have argued that there may be traces or a trace of one of them which has not erupted.168 Sjøvold has cautioned that their claims are not altogether convincing.169 Spindler, however, has not been nearly so cautious. He states:

“X-rays and computer tomograms show that all four wisdom teeth are missing. Although partially present in the jaw, not one of them has broken through.”170
Now in modern humans wisdom tooth crown formation usually takes place between the ages of 9 and 12, with root formation following a little later (between 12 and 20 years of age).171 As such, crown formation and eruption of the third molars occur much later than the same events for all other permanent teeth.172 Eruption, in fact, usually takes place in the late teens or early 20s—if, indeed, it takes place at all.173

Of course, were certain aspects of maturational development to have been retarded in the distant past, it remains possible that the so-called ‘trace(s)’ are, in fact, the germs of the third molars.174 This could mean that Oetzi was old enough to account for the tooth wear, but appeared to be younger if judged by today’s standards of when wisdom teeth erupt.175

Let us, now, examine several other age indicators.

Seidler et al. have also noted that CAT scans of the external surfaces of the Ice Man’s cranial sutures also allow an age estimation to be made. They note that:

“ … the sutures were closed but not obliterated. In the following sections there were no signs of obliteration: sutura coronaris: C1, C2 and C3; sutura sagittalis: Sl, S2 and 54; and sections of the sutura lambdoidea. The sagittal region S3 was possibly obliterated. The degree of suture closure may therefore indicate an age of 25 to 30 years.”176
Of course, if this aspect of skeletal maturation were delayed, Oetzi would be significantly older in actual years consistent with the observed degree of tooth attrition.

Turning then to the long bones, we have already noted177 that the diaphyses and epiphyses were all fused in Oetzi’s case. On the other hand, radiological examination has also revealed evidence of trabecular thickening in the region of the former metaphyseal plates.178 Given that fusion in the long bones of both males and females usually takes place in the late teens,179 and the fact that thinning-out of the trabeculae usually commences from about 30 years of age,180 it would appear that the Ice Man was somewhere between 20 and 30 years of age if based on modern rates of skeletal maturation.

Regrettably, age assessments for Oetzi based on the state of the bony surfaces of the symphysis pubis are not known at the present time.181 Nor have other methods of assessing age—such as the degree of deformation of the limb bones—been examined at the time of writing.

Nevertheless, at least three aging indicators (thus far) appear to indicate (based on comparison with modern rates of maturation) that Oetzi was a young adult at the time of his interment. However, the degree of wear exhibited in his upper and lower dentitions would seemingly contradict this view—unless, of course, we invoke the possibility of maturational retardation (see below). This would mean that Oetzi’s bones, when calibrated against rates of maturation observed today, would be interpreted as far younger than his true age. If such delayed maturation was associated with greater longevity he would have, indeed, been a young adult in his own terms, though possibly 40 or more years old in actuality.

Past maturational retardation and greater longevity
(1) Biblical and Secular Precedents
The related postulates of greater longevity and maturational retardation in the past are supported by biblical and secular writings. For instance, the Psalmist has alluded to the fact that:

“… all our days (that is, life-spans) have declined in Thy fury. … As for the days of our lives, they contain seventy years, Or if due to strength, eighty years.”182
This statement—uttered by David approximately 3,000 years ago—testifies to the dramatic decline in longevity following the Flood.183 (David’s 40 year reign is conventionally dated at between 1010–971 BC184 and his birth ca. 1040 BC.)

Working backwards, by the time we reach the time of the Exodus—dated at 1447 BC by Bimson and Livingston185 according to a strict biblical chronology186—we are confronted with substantially greater life-spans than those of David and his contemporaries. For instance, the life-spans of Aaron and Moses were 123 and 120 years respectively,187,188 both patriarchs dying in the fortieth year189 after the Exodus. Given that Moses and Aaron died in the same year—1407 BC—we may assume that life expectancies approaching 120 years were still common place in the 15th century BC.

As we get closer in time to the Flood (c. 2300 BC based on a tight Massoretic chronology) the documented life-spans of the patriarchs increase dramatically. For instance, the early post-Flood patriarch, Job, lived 140 years after the calamitous events described in the book of the Old Testament by the same name.190 Two of the survivors of the Flood—Noah and his son Shem—lived to ages of 950 and 600 years respectively, 191 whilst the patriarch Abraham (some ten generations later) lived to the ripe old age of 175.192 His wife, Sarah, died at the age of 127.193

However, the Old Testament is not the only historical document to cite such instances of great longevity. For instance, the noted Egyptologist, Sir Alan Gardiner, commenting on the hieratic papyrus known as the Turin Canon of Kings, states that:

“The chronicle started, like that of Manetho, with the gods and demi-gods, to whom reigns of fabulous length are attributed.”194
Likewise, the historian, Flavius Josephus (fl. AD 70) asserted:

“ … let no one, upon comparing the lives of the ancients with our lives, and with the few years that we now live, think that what we have said of them is false; or make the shortness of our lives at present an argument that neither did they attain to so long a duration of life. … Now I have witnesses to what I have said, all those that have written Antiquities, both among the Greeks and barbarians; for even Manetho, who wrote the Egyptian history, and Berossus, who collected the Chaldean monuments, and Mochus and Hestiaeus, and besides these, Hieronymus the Egyptian, and those who composed the Phoenician History, agree to what I here say: Hesiod also, and Hecataeus, Hellanicus, and Acusilaus; and besides these, Ephorus and Nicolaus relate that the ancients lived a thousand years; but as to these matters let everyone look upon them as he thinks fit.”195
In a footnote to his translation of The Works of Josephus Whiston,196 in reference to Josephus’s commentary on Genesis 6:3b, states that:

“Josephus here supposes, that the life of these men, for of them only do I understand, was now reduced to 120 years; which is confirmed by the fragment of (The Book of) Enoch, sect. 10, in Authent. Rec. 1.268. For as to the rest of mankind, Josephus himself confesses their lives were much longer than 120 years for many generations after the flood, as we shall see presently; and he says they were gradually shortened till the days of Moses, and then fixed [for some time] at 120, 6.5.”
A number of other historical documents attribute great ages to individuals from early human history. The Australian archaeologist, Clifford Wilson, has recently noted that, in addition to the so-called Sumerian King List:197

“… The Egyptians and Chinese also speak of kings who lived for thousands of years. The later Greeks and Romans were more conservative, suggesting 800 to 1,000 years—closer to the Biblical figures.”198
whilst Free199 noted the existence of a Babylonian king list which also featured exaggerated life-spans.

However, along with greater longevity, there is also a measure of evidence in support of deferred skeletal and sexual maturation in the past. The genealogies of Genesis 5 and 11 seem to infer that sexual maturation took place at ages somewhat greater than those of today.200 For instance, the minimum cited ages of begetting of sons to pre-Flood patriarchs was 65 years.201 By way of comparison, those of most of the post-Flood patriarchs ranged from the late twenties to mid thirties.202 (There are several other patriarchs for whom ages at either the time of marriage and/or birth of their first-born child can be established).203 Whilst conceding that some of the sons cited in Genesis 11 may not necessarily have been first-borns, there does, nevertheless, appear to be a general trend towards delayed sexual (and thus probably skeletal) maturation the further back in time we go.

(2) Possible Relevance to the Ice Man
Given such possibilities, it remains to be said that many of the morphological characteristics observed in so-called ‘archaic’ and ancient humans may be related, at least in part, to significantly slower ontogeny (as expressed in slower skeletal and sexual maturation) and a generally greater longevity in the past. Indeed, Gardiner, has (unwittingly) alluded to just such a possibility when describing the contents of historical records from ancient Egypt. In his book, Egypt of the Pharaohs, he wrote of the Old Kingdom:

“The present tendency is to assign to Dyn.IV a duration of no more than 160 years and to Dyn.V no more than 140. These figures are small in view of the great works accomplished, but apparently will have to be still further reduced, for there seems no reason to doubt the veracity of a courtier who claimed to have been honoured by (no less than) six kings (pharaohs) from Ra ‘djedef to Sahure‘, or of a royal prince who enjoyed similar favour, but starting only with Ra ‘djedef’s successor, Chephren.”204
The impression we are left with is that these individuals lived well in excess of 100 years. To concede such a possibility was unthinkable to a secular archaeologist.

Craniofacial characteristics such as large cranial capacity, dolichocephalic skull-shape, prominent brow-ridges and expanded frontal sinuses are readily recognizable traits of many of our purported ‘archaic’ ancestors. The Ice Man also exhibits these same traits—though in a somewhat more subtle form. We have already noted that Oetzi possessed a very substantial cranial capacity and cranium that bordered on being ‘dolichocephalic’.205 He also possessed moderately developed brow-ridges and associated frontal sinuses.206 (These two characteristics tend to go hand-in-hand).

Of particular interest to us is the Ice Man’s ‘hyperorthognate’ facial profile.207 This trait recalls the retrognathic profile of virtually all Neanderthal children.208 The retrognathic condition in Neanderthal infants and young children manifests itself in the posterior-superior positioning of the jaw. This condition arises as a consequence of jaw growth and development being decidedly out-of-phase with cranial development.209 That is to say, jaw growth in Neanderthal children (and perhaps juveniles and young adults) was retarded with respect to cranial development.210 This retardation may well have necessitated the deferral of the formation and eruption of the third molars in Neanderthals (and possibly Homo erectus) until such time as the jaw had reached its full adult size. Such retardation in jaw development may well explain the absence of erupted third molars in the Ice Man. In other words, the late eruption of the third molar, together with the taurodont nature of the molars, would seemingly represent a design mechanism geared for greater longevity in the early history of humankind! Conversely, the impaction of third molars and the overcrowding of teeth generally211 —conditions prevalent in many modern-day societies—could be directly attributable to the fact that longevity has declined dramatically during the course of human history. It is well to remember that in the case of the Ice Man there is no apparent evidence of over-crowding; in fact, there is evidence to the contrary in the form of a pronounced diastema (gap) between the medial incisors of the upper jaw (only).212 Whilst the lower (and possibly ‘immature’) jaw doesn’t contain any obvious diastema, it does appear that there may be sufficient space between the second molars and the ascending ramus of the lower jaw to accommodate the purportedly ‘missing’ wisdom teeth.213 Even if there weren’t, this would not necessarily preclude future eruption of the wisdom teeth, since extension of the body of the mandible parallels the enlargement of the crypts in which the post-canine teeth are developing.214 If we are, indeed, dealing with germs in the Ice Man’s case, then it follows that jaw growth is not yet complete. The same argument may also hold for the upper jaw, since it incorporates a relatively wide dental arcade and diastema.215

If the present writer’s contentions of deferred maturation and greater longevity in the past are correct, then it is possible that the Tyrolean Ice Man represented a young adult who was significantly older in terms of actual years than his modern-day counterpart at the same ontogenetic stage of life. The deferral of skeletal maturation to an age of, say, 40 years would certainly go a long way to explaining the degree of wear observed in the Ice Man’s upper and lower dental arcades. Under such circumstances it would be possible to match the degree of tooth wear to the somewhat ‘immature’ development of the mandible and maxillary, the largely unobliterated cranial sutures, unerupted wisdom teeth and his limb bone development.

A number of conclusions can be drawn from this study.

Firstly, the radiocarbon datings—which are (at least in a relative sense) not in dispute—suggest a dating of between 5,200 and 5,300 years BP for the Ice Man—dates which render Oetzi contemporaneous with the Chalcolithic cultures of the Middle East and Mesopotamia, the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, the stone-working Nubian civilizations of North Africa, ornamental metalworkers from Varna (Bulgaria) and numerous other ‘advanced’ cultures throughout the Old and New World.216

Secondly, whilst Oetzi’s calibrated age has been accepted by most palaeoanthropologists, his apparent sophistication and adeptness have surprised most cultural anthropologists who, until now, have regarded Europe as a cultural backwater until comparatively recent times.217

Thirdly, the presence of two serial traumas in the Ice Man’s thoracic region testifies to the dangers confronted by the Ice Man during the course of his life.

Fourthly, the relative recency of at least one of these serial traumas and the absence of stored body fats, suggests that the Ice Man’s death was almost inevitable.

Fifthly, and despite his deteriorating condition, the Ice Man ventured high into the alps—perhaps in an attempt to escape hostile pursuers.218

Sixthly, there is the issue of retarded skeletal maturation. Several lines of evidence have been cited which indicate that Oetzi was either a young (or sub-) adult. Yet his teeth exhibit a degree of wear consistent with that of a much older individual. Given the possibility that his third molars were still germinating and that he (probably) didn’t consume meat in a raw state, the only tenable explanation for the disparity between his presumed dental age and largely unobliterated cranial sutures on the one hand, and the degree of tooth wear on the other, is that he had been masticating for a period of 35 to 40 years, but was still essentially a young adult (equivalent to a 25 to 30 year old in today’s world). In other words, the Tyrolean Ice Man was maturing skeletally in many respects at a much slower rate than is the case today.

There has also been considerable discussion concerning the circumstances surrounding Oetzi’s death.

Finally, the general wear-and-tear observed in the Ice Man’s bones and teeth need not imply that he was approaching middle age. For instance, physically active individuals—such as athletes and perhaps in this instance, alpine shepherds—tend to be susceptible to wear-and-tear of the knee and ankle joints (osteoarthritis). The Ice Man’s spondylosis could have been brought on by heavy loading of the vertebral column (for example, carrying injured or new-born sheep/goats over the shoulders). The wear-and-tear would have been amplified, in part, by any prolongation of ontogeny.

Many of the Ice Man’s morphological traits (including his large cranial capacity, moderate brow-ridges and associated frontal sinus development and relatively short stature) recall those of relatively late archaic Europeans—though these features are certainly more subtly expressed than those of Eurasian Neanderthals. It is, therefore, the considered opinion of the present writer that Oetzi represents a post-Flood individual born during the recessional phase of the great Ice Age.

The writer wishes to express his gratitude to Dr Seng Khor for his valuable assistance in the definition and interpretation of various orthodontic landmarks. Thanks is also expressed to Dr Carl Wieland for his helpful comments and constructive criticism of an earlier draft, and Marie Wieland for the sketch of the Ice Man.

churinga churinga
70+, M
May 10, 2012