Horizon (1964) s32e07 Episode Script

Ice Mummies Part 2

It was a time before empires.
Before the pyramids were built in Egypt.
Before the stones were raised at Stonehenge.
And in the cold wilderness of the Alps a man set out on a journey that would last 5000 years.
In 1991, one of the most extraordinary archeological discoveries of the 20th century was revealed by the melting ice.
This is the story of how science has spent the last 5 years, trying to unlock its secrets.
It all began here, in the Alps, on the border of Austria and Italy.
That summer, freak weather conditions have produced an unusually large melt.
High on the mountain pass, two hikers had found a body frozen to the rock.
Not in itself a surprise.
Unaware there was anything special about the body the team from Innsbruck University tried to remove the corpse from the ice.
They hurried because the weather was closing in.
But without adequate equipment, the body was badly damaged.
Only as the whole find appear it would begin to dawn on everyone that this was not like other bodies that they've been found.
Rumor began to circulate about who the man was.
But no one would have guessed the truth.
Back at Innsbruck University news of the mysterious find attracted the media.
A beautifully preserved copper axe found with it convinced archeologist Konrad Spindler that the body was at least 4000 years old.
The oldest frozen mummy ever discovered.
But the Iceman was running into trouble.
Fungus has started to grow on him, and scientists had to move fat to stop the rot.
After thousands of years under a glacier, the Iceman was consigned to a freezer under the university.
Spindler was put in charge of the archeological effort and the Iceman came to dominate his professional career.
Radio carbon dating proved his initial guess of 4000 years old was wrong.
The mummy was, in fact, 5300 years old.
This made the copper axe head even more significant.
Because the Iceman was not meant to have discovered copper for another 1000 years.
Archeologists had to redate the copper age.
It was an unbelievably rich find.
Besides the body and copper axe there were leather clothes, flint tools, and shoes stuffed with grass.
Perhaps most extraordinary at all there was a complete quiver full of arrows.
It's not every day that the bowels of the Earth just-- the glaciers of he Earth just open up and present to you with such a wonderful sample.
I think we have to take full advantage of it.
All this turned the Iceman into a local celebrity.
He was nicknamed " Otzi " and songs were written about him.
But celebrity status has its burdens.
There were rumors he was a fake, and then that he had been castrated.
Things got so bad, that Spindler and his colleagues had to carry out a special investigation to confirm the presence of a penis.
The politics of this discovery had also turn sour.
A mapping team, sent to the site, discovered that the body had not been found in Austria but 92 meters inside Italy.
Italians wanted their body back.
It took months but eventually the Austrians agreed to hand the body over when preliminary research have been finished.
Now, 5 years on, Iceman is still in the freezer , at Innsbruck.
After all this time has he live up to his promise to shed light on a time of darkness ? From the beginning, archeologists have tried to fit him into a culture they already knew about.
Ironically, this led to the same discussion the politicians were having.
Did he came from the North or South ? 5 years ago researches noticed his flint artifacts like this knife, came from a geological distinct area 120 miles to the south, called The Monte Lassini.
Last summer, professor Spindler led a dig to this area where he hoped the analysis of the flint could pinpoint exactly where the stone was mined.
All the evidence suggest that Monte Lassini was not only a thriving flint mining area but also a significant exporter of its product.
Surprisingly, trade was so widespread in the Stone Age that the flint cannot be used to identify where he came from.
However, there were other clues.
The body is kept at -6C and 98% humidity, by being wrapped in ice.
This hasn't prevented a battery of tests being carried out.
And among the first, was a complete X-ray survey.
His skeleton betrayed a very distinctive life style.
The Alps were traditionally thought to be a lonely place in Neolithic times heavily wooded hostile to agriculture yet here was a body of a man, used to the mountains and found high amongst its peaks.
There were tantalizing clues about possible inhabitants.
Like these picture stones, found in the high valleys, and covered in the Neolithic images.
But the trouble is that erosion of the mountains has left archeologists very little to work with.
Of the people who may have wondered into the Alps their life styles didn't seem to leave much of a mark.
But the Iceman vividly shows these people were not reluctant visitors But specialists in mountain living.
It was ice that preserved all this perishable material.
Without that, the Iceman's tribe would have remained a mystery.
He didn't belong North of South of Alps.
But in them.
Archeologists returned to the site a year after the body was found.
This time they have the proper equipment and every ounce of the snow was melted.
Hundreds of gallons of material were filtered any drop of which could contain an archeological treasure.
At the botanical department in Innsbruck they're still sorting through the washings, 5 years on.
Among the thousands of fragments of plants, insects and animals they have found new evidence about his life.
In particular, working with the University of Glasgow a distinctive range of mosses were identified which the Iceman could only have picked up while walking in the southern valleys of the Alps.
There was more.
They found grains of corn as well.
This grain came out from the washing residues from his clothes.
They most probably stuck to his clothing and you can see that they are perfectly preserved.
These wheat spikelets derive from einkorn, which is a primitive wheat which was commonly grown during Neolithic within the region.
This cultivated species is only separated by threshing, so this is a processed corn.
So the Iceman was probably connected to an agricultural community, in the Southern Valley.
And it just so happens that there is a good candidate nearby.
In this region only one major site has been found, and that is where you have the Castle Juval at present, and we are very close to that point now.
That site has been populated since Middle Stone Age, and also later during the Iceman's period, the Copper Age.
Castle Juval is only 8 Km down a valley south from where the Iceman was found.
I think he came from down here because I don't think there was very much effort to go from here to the place that he was found, because it might be done within a day.
And coming from a northern valley in Tyrol— that would take days because it's-- it's about 70 75 Km.
Perhaps this was the Iceman's home.
Born and bred in the mountains and with equipment any modern mountaineer would recognize.
In 1991, these artifacts were no more than soggy piles of material.
Now they've been fully restored.
Lightweight practical mountain gear, like this waterproof grass cloak.
Or this utility belt full of simple tools.
He even got a backpack.
These details have given an enormous boost to those trying to reconstruct the past accurately.
At this open air museum in Denmark they try to recreate Neolithic life for the public.
An to them, the Iceman is a godsend.
We have found single arrows, and-- single bows, but we didn't know what bow belong to what arrow And here we have not only the bow and the arrow we have a quiver that was very special.
Here you can—this quiver protects the flights here—we can close it.
We have never expected that the Iceman has had such a beautiful construction.
By studying his tools, and repeating his techniques they can even reveal new detail about the Iceman himself.
I fix the feather two times with the tar and second time with the thread.
We have only 2 arrows.
One was a little bit shorter I believe this was his arrow, and the other one, the longer one, cannot be his You see here, we have a finished arrow here and when I do this here, with a thread I can do it only as a right hand man.
I have to open here, and then I turn it in that way so it goes, in that way, as a spiral, around the arrow.
But the other one, the longer arrow is left hand made, this is going at here is going that way, so, this arrow was made from a man who was a left hand man.
So, this cannot be his arrow.
Long ago, in the Neolithic time of the Alps, they have had long bows.
They could shoot nearly 180 meters.
These arrows can kill bears and wolves.
They have found bones, human bones, with arrow points in, flint arrow points in, so it's not only a hunting weapon it's also a real weapon.
The ice has preserved evidence of his craft skills on his body.
His teeth are worn down, from working material like wood, and leather.
His fingernails tell the same story.
Close analysis by Italian researchers has revealed the ends are broken and chipped from use.
The Iceman's health has been a big question from the beginning and he has regularly been taken out of his fridge for tests.
The x-rays reveal a surprisingly modern complaint.
But these furred arteries turned out to be less surprising when tiny samples of bone were sent away for analysis.
But following up on clues like this has proved difficult for the researchers at Innsbruck University.
Trying to use an endoscope, on a crushed, frozen body, isn't easy.
But they have managed to obtain stomach samples which confirm that his last meal was meat, and rough milled corn.
Other questions still remain.
Like how he came to have broken ribs.
To answer this, they need to analyze a piece of rib.
But scientists have found another way of studying his health.
Without touching his body.
When the washings were collected in 1992 archeologists found strands of the Iceman's hair.
These were to reveal an extraordinary detail about his life.
At Oxford University, researches used a machine called a Proton Microprobe to measure different elements contained within the hair.
The hairs are about 100 microns in width and our beam can be focused to a spot of the size of about one micron So, you still have about 100 slots that you can sample over across the length of the hairs.
We found copper particles on the surface, and when we sliced the hair we found that the copper was indeed localized quite strongly on the surface of the hair, and we also found arsenic which is equally unusual and that's not a traditionally-- that's not found in normal human hair to the detection limits of our instrument.
We can't-- You don't usually see any arsenic.
So, his hair was covered in copper and contained arsenic levels normally associated with chronic arsenic poisoning.
But there was a problem.
As he and his equipment became frozen to the rocks he could've become contaminated with trace elements from the soil around.
So hte Oxford team had to carry out the same tests on deer hair from his artifacts.
If you assume that the basic structure of the deer hair and human hair is similar, then any contaminants in the local environment will be absorbed equally by the deer hair and the-- and the human hair, but in fact we found that the deer hair contained relatively small levels of copper and no arsenic.
These are unusually high copper levels for natural contamination.
He would have had to have been buried in the outflow from a copper mine or something to have obtained copper levels like this.
We haven't seen anything like this in any other modern or archaeological hair that we've analyzed.
And certainly the fact that this deer hair doesn't have these same peaks of copper — --indicates that this is something that was particular to him during his life and not so much contamination after he was buried.
If the Iceman was exposed to high levels of arsenic and copper during his lifetime, there was only one source.
Smelting copper ore, which produces arsenic vapor.
His copper axe has had more impact than any other item found with him.
And his hair samples suggest he had the skills to make it.
But that means that he would have to find it mine it smelt it and cast it.
Before the Iceman there was no evidence of a copper industry 5000 years ago, in the Alps.
Since his discovery, researchers have gone back to reinterpret other archeological sites.
Could these unassuming dips be remnants of open cast mining, from the Iceman's time ? In itself the presence of green copper ore doesn't prove that this was a mining site.
But some large round stones, found nearby, were more revealing.
The answer to these strange marking lay in reconstructive archeology.
By making hammers out of these stones, they could recreate the same notches and grooves.
These were ancient mining tools.
There is now increasing evidence that there was plenty of copper mining in the Iceman's time.
Reconstructing 5000 year smelting, however, is not easy.
I try to smelt copper from a copper ore, from malachite and copper oxide in a crucible.
It's shape was used in Neolithic time.
We have very good examples.
One problem is maintaining the high temperatures needed to melt copper ore.
The most dangerous thing for casting copper is to have too much oxygen in it for you can hammer it, sharpen it, even when it is very soft, it will break.
And this is the problem of the ancient copper caster.
Of course, you can skip all this hard work, and use a modern furnace to achieve the liquid copper.
At Sheffield University, they have concentrated on the next stage.
Casting the axe head.
We're trying to get to the copper axe based on this wooden model And the wooden model which is based on the Iceman's axe.
We are setting it into a 2 part mold the sand of course, what you see here, the metal frame All the tools that you've seen here would have been different.
So we are compromising material, but in principle, the result would have been the same for the Iceman as it is for us.
I have the experience of 20 experiments and-- the Iceman or his craftsmen he knew this for some 100 times.
This is what the final object would have looked like.
All the ones that have entered archaeological record have been polished.
Now, that is a lot of elbow grease; with sandstone first of all first of all to get the smooth surface off and then with sand and water and you end up with a beautiful axe like this.
Despite its age, the real axe head can still draw admirers.
Really, it is quite beautiful blade.
I had in the museums of Europe about 100 pieces, and this is one of the most beautiful pieces I saw.
Closer examination has also revealed how good the Iceman was at casting copper.
It has a very distinctive kink at the top which is, obviously, a casting fault, and anyone who would see it, would recognize, ah, yes this is a axe.
Every chip and scrape on its surface means something to the expert eye.
It has been used, three times This I can conclude from the very weak, very tiny widening of the blade here If you hammer the blade, the angles the sides will be a little bit wider.
There is however, a lot of argument, about what such an axe meant to the Iceman.
How practical was a soft copper axe ? This stone axe has a broader angle and you have seen that I can't do this here because it doesn't go in because the angle is very wide here.
And so, I have to work in a very flat angle, so.
But this is copper and you see the angle is much thinner than the stone axe and then so I can go deeper in.
It couldn't have been used for any length of time because a copper axe like that is too soft.
It would bend over after 20 minutes without hardening, without being alloyed.
You can see it on this one.
These are experimental axes.
You have to ignore the large chinks.
But if you look at that section here, it bends over like this after half an hour use.
So it couldn't have been entirely for hard use.
It must have been also a multi-purpose tool.
I think experiments have shown that in fact, again in practical terms, there aren't that many big differences in terms of the amount of use that one can get out of these materials.
I think the differences may have much more to do with the meaning or significance that people attributed to metal as opposed to stone.
Among the picture stones, there is a clue to the axe's significance.
But the idea of symbolism is rejected by some archeologists.
If as archaeologists, all we can say is, this is an axe and it's made of copper, then really we're saying so little.
We're saying nothing about human history, nothing about personalities, nothing about the nature of society at the time.
Can you imagine what it would be like to see one for the first time ? I mean, the way these things catch the light, not only would this have been dramatic, but also it would have been mysterious.
You may not know where it came from and you may not know how it was made.
The technology, the knowledge required may have been-- restricted magic.
It may have been sacred knowledge.
From the moment of his discovery, there was a theory that the Iceman was some kind of priest, or shaman.
High places have always been sacred in ancient religions.
Perhaps he died performing some ritual on the mountains.
The discovery of strange markings on his body seem to support that belief.
If you look at his right lower leg, at the ankle, there were three tattooed lines.
Looking further up here there are three lines-- being here-- and actually these lines were discovered by using infrared photography.
If you look at his back there are some tattoos that were found on the left side on the back, and these tattoos were at locations where he could not see them himself, so somebody else must have applied them.
Mysterious though they are archeologists now think these marks symbolize no more than painful joints.
Climbing creates very great tension on the legs.
so, he may have experienced pains in the legs.
Nowadays, few scientists think he was a shaman.
But what was he doing, then, on top of the mountain ? After all the research, most archeologists agree with what the locals on South Tirol thought all along.
The Iceman was found at the end of a long valley, that pushes North from the plains of Italy.
Every spring, local shepherds drive their flocks up this valley and over the high pass, to the summer pastures in the North.
The route the sheep take today passes far from the place where the Iceman died.
But this path was only made in the last century, with dynamite.
The ancient route would have taken then right past his body.
The Iceman could well have died tending his flock.
It seems inconceivable, but this tradition is probably more ancient than the Egyptian Empire.
Today, the South Tirolians are proud of the Iceman, and his future is settled.
When the Austrians hand him over, he will be housed in this converted bank.
Unfortunately, there are still arguments, especially over exhibiting the body to the public.
The future has already arrived in Innsbruck.
The very latest imaging system is being used to turn 5000 CAT scans into a 3-D model of the Iceman.
It is a whole new way of studying his body, without damaging it.
And already, professor Zur Nedden has more questions.
Did he suffer a stroke ? The whole question of how he died remains the biggest mystery around the Iceman.
There are no fatal wounds on his body but maybe his own fickle mountain home proved his undoing.
When he came here, he had placed his equipment very nicely, at different spots, and he knew where he was putting them.
And when you get into fog the only thing you need to do is just to try to wait for the fog to dissipate.
Perhaps 5000 years ago the people of his local village, knew all too well what happened.
It is a little tragedy what happened but very often it happened.
The ice is full of people who have fallen down the mountain and they died there.
It's an old story.
Late in the year, and old and experienced member of the village set out from the safety of the valleys to cross the high mountains.
He stopped for a rest at a familiar point.
When he arrived in that little valley he sat down and he made the fire.
And then, something happens.
He couldn't escape there because it was dark and he can't find a way in the darkness and during the show.
So he had to wait until the snow storm was over.
But it didn't stop.
He waited.
All his firewood was gone and He was afraid himself.
He knew that when he will fell asleep he will be dead, because then he will be killed by frost and ice.
Then it happened: he fell asleep.
And that was the last time he fell asleep.
Maybe there was a family in the valley who cried about him, because he didn't come back.