In 1991 German hiker Helmut Simon came across the body of a man preserved within the Similaun Glacier in the Ötztaler Alpen, some 90m within Italy. Police and forensic scientists were summoned to the scene. Carbon dating revealed that the ice man, nicknamed ‘Ötzi’, was nearly 5400 years old, placing him in the late Stone Age and making him the oldest and best-preserved mummy in the world.
Ötzi became big news, more so because his state of preservation was remarkable; even the pores of his skin were visible. In addition, Ötzi had been found with 70 artefacts, including a copper axe, bow and arrows, charcoal and clothing. Physiologically he was found to be no different from modern humans. X-rays showed he had suffered from arthritis, frostbite and broken ribs.
Not everybody was worried about these finer points, however. Several Austrian and Italian women contacted Innsbruck University shortly after the discovery and asked to be impregnated with Ötzi’s frozen sperm, but the all-important part of his body was missing.
Ötzi was relinquished to the Italians to become the centrepiece of a museum in Bolzano in 1998. In September 2010 the family of the late Helmut Simon were awarded €175,000 for his groundbreaking discovery. In 2017 Ötzi was in the news again as fresh research revealed he has 19 genetic relatives living in Tyrol.