Quirks & Quarks

Ötzi the Iceman's clothing

Unravelling the secrets of Ötzi the Iceman’s wardrobe
Assemblage of images of Ötzi the Iceman’s clothing from the Museum of Archaeology, Bolzano. From top left: a shoe with grass interior (left) and leather exterior (right), the leather coat (reassembled), leather loincloth, grass coat, fur hat, and leather leggings. (NIALL O SULLIVAN, INSTITUTE FOR MUMMIES AND THE ICEMAN)

Twenty-five years ago this week, two German tourists stumbled upon what they thought was a recently deceased mountaineer preserved in ice in the Austrian / Italian Alps. Instead, what they found turned out to be a Copper Age man, estimated to be 5300 years old. He was given the nickname Ötzi the Iceman, after the Alps where he was discovered.

Now, thanks to advances in molecular biology and paleogenetics, Niall O'Sullivan, formerly from the University College Dublin, has finally unravelled the secrets of Ötzi's wardrobe. It turns out Ötzi was sporting fashions made out of domesticated sheep, goat, and cattle. His hat was made of wild brown bear and his quiver was made of roe deer. These clues, along with other scientific discoveries made about Ötzi, are giving us a clearer picture of who this man was and how he lived.

Related Links:

  • Dr. O'Sullivan's paper in Scientific Reports 
  • National Geographic story
  • The Guardian story