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SCIENCE REPORT – August 8, 2001: Iceman’s Death - 2001-08-07

This is the VOA Special English Science Report.

Scientists have announced the cause of death for a man who died five-thousand-three-hundred years ago. The scientists say the man was killed by an arrow that tore through his back. They say the discovery of the arrow in the victim’s body settles questions of how he died.

Two German climbers discovered the body in northern Italy ten years ago. The climbers were high in the Alps Mountains, more than three-thousand meters above sea level. Suddenly, they saw the body of a man in a piece of ice. He wore leather clothing and carried food, tools and weapons. Newspapers called him the Iceman.

The ice had protected the body for thousands of years. It was the oldest and best preserved ancient body ever found. The Iceman was in such good condition that scientists could discover many things about him. They discovered where he came from, how he lived and what he ate for his last meal before he died.

When the Iceman was discovered, some scientists suggested that he had fallen asleep and died in the snow or was killed in a fall. A bow and arrows were found with the Iceman. This led some people to believe that he died while hunting animals.

Later, his remains and other objects were transported to Bolzano, Italy, near the border with Austria. They are now kept at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology in Bolzano. The body is kept cool in a special observation area at the museum.

In the new study, scientists used special x-ray equipment to produce several different images of the Iceman’s upper chest. This process is called computerized tomography. Scientists had examined the body several times in the past. But this was the first time they produced x-ray images of the chest area from more than one position.

The scientists discovered the arrowhead under the Iceman’s left shoulder. The object was less than two-and-one-half centimeters long. The scientists say the arrow tore through the nerves and blood vessels of his left arm. It stopped near his lungs.

The museum’s director Alex Susanna said the discovery changes many theories about the Iceman. He said scientists must now carry out new research. An international conference on the Iceman will be held in Bolzano in September.

This VOA Special English Science Report was written by George Grow.