Researchers Look At The Last Days Of Ötzi The Iceman By Investigating His Recently Sharpened Tools

A new study has just been published that examines the condition of Ötzi the Iceman's tools before his brutal murder 5,300 years ago.

A new study has examined Otzi the Iceman's tools and determined they were sharpened days before death.
AP / AP Images

A new study has just been published that examines the condition of Ötzi the Iceman's tools before his brutal murder 5,300 years ago.

A new study has shown that Ötzi the Iceman took immaculate care of his tools, re-sharpening them just days before he was killed 5,300 years ago. As we know that Ötzi was brutally murdered in the Italian Alps, there has been speculation that he may have been preparing for some kind of attack by making sure that his tools were all fully sharp well in advance.

As Live Science reported, however, researchers are ultimately unable to determine the exact reason behind the swift re-sharpening of Ötzi the Iceman’s tools, with archaeologist Ursula Wierer explaining that she “couldn’t say” whether they were sharpened ahead of a fight. The one thing that researchers can agree on is that these tools were re-sharpened for some kind of work.

“But I think he re-sharpened them because maybe he had some work in mind that he wanted to do with these modified tools.”

Ötzi the Iceman had a moderately large took kit that he was almost certainly proud of and which included a borer, a flake, an end-scraper, a dagger, and two arrowheads. Scientists have now been able to fully analyze these tools individually by using computed tomography (CT) scans and high-powered microscopes and have learned that Ötzi’s tools were constructed out of chert, which is derived from silica.

Scientists determined that the chert used in Ötzi’s tools came from several locations in Trentino, Italy, and would have ranged from 25 to 47 miles away. Because it is believed that Ötzi The Iceman probably resided in Vinschgau Valley (now South Tyrol, Italy), it is quite likely that Ötzi or those who he associated with were engaged in trade, according to Wierer.

“Maybe he did not trade himself, but he had some kind of contact with people who traded. I think we have to imagine that the trade at the time was already quite far-reaching for certain raw materials and certain products.”

Researchers also discovered upon examination of Ötzi’s tools that there were two distinct styles of cut marks on them, showing two different cultures. The first of these cut marks were found on arrowheads and looks to be of a northern Italian style.

The second set of cut marks were discovered on an end-scraper and looked as if it was part of the Horgen culture, from southern German and Swiss residents of the time.

Scientists found that Ötzi the Iceman had re-worked many of his tools over time, but what was most intriguing to scientists in the new study was the discovery that the borer and end-scraper had just been carefully sharpened again only days before Ötzi’s death.

While we may never be certain of the reasons surrounding the fast re-sharpening of his tools, researchers did learn a lot about Ötzi the Iceman’s tools in the new study that was just published in Plos One.