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SCIENCE REPORT – February 6, 2002: Iceman’s Death - 2002-02-05

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

A leading expert on ancient mountain cultures has a theory about a man who died more than five-thousand years ago. The man’s body was found in a piece of ice high in the Alps Mountains in northern Italy in Nineteen-Ninety-One. Newspapers called him the Iceman.

Johan Reinhard suspects the Iceman was killed as an offering to the gods. Mister Reinhard is famous for his discoveries of human remains in the Andes Mountains of South America. Many of the remains were of children sacrificed to mountain gods.

Mister Reinhard works for the National Geographic Society. His theory is reported in National Geographic magazine.

Mister Reinhard admits that some scientists are dismissing his theory. Yet, he says, it is time to re-examine all the evidence.

Two German climbers discovered the Iceman more than three-thousand meters above sea level. Ice had protected the body for thousands of years. It was the oldest and best preserved ancient body ever found.

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. They are now kept at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology. The body is kept cool in a special observation area at the museum.

Last year, scientists announced the cause of death. The scientists used x-ray equipment to produce images of the Iceman’s upper chest. They found an arrowhead under the left shoulder. Scientists said he was killed by an arrow that tore through his back.Mister Reinhard says the killing might have been either a murder or an offering to the gods. The body was found in a long, narrow area between two of the highest mountains in the Alps. Mister Reinhard says this is the kind of place where people from mountain cultures traditionally made offerings to their gods.

He also notes that a valuable copper ax was found near the body. He says a murderer would have stolen something this valuable. He believes the tool may have been left to serve the victim in the afterlife or as an offering to the gods.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow.