“Ötzi” was shot down – bang bang
Mystery Of 5,000 Year Old Glacier Mummy Solved
An Italian-Swiss research team, including Dr. Frank Rühli of the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich in Switzerland proved the cause of death of the Iceman (“Ötzi,” 3300 BC) by modern X-ray-based technology. A lesion of a close-to-the-shoulder artery has been found thanks to a CT scan or multislice computed tomography, finally clarifying the world-famous glacier mummy’s cause of death.
The Iceman is a uniquely well-preserved late Neolithic glacier mummy, found in 1991 in South Tyrol at 3,210 meters above sea level. He has undergone various scientific examinations, as human bodies are the best source for the study of life conditions in the past as well as the evolution of today’s diseases.
In 2005, the glacier mummy was reinvestigated in South Tyrol by Dr. F. Rühli from the Institute of Anatomy at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, in close collaboration with Dr. Eduard Egarter Vigl of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, as well as Drs. Patrizia Pernter and Paul Gostner from the Department of Radiology at General Hospital Bolzano, by state-of-the-art multislice computed tomography (CT).
Analysis of the CT images showed a lesion of the dorsal wall of the left subclavian artery, the artery underneath the clavicle, caused by an earlier, already-detected arrowhead that remains in the back. In addition, a large haematoma could be visualized in the surrounding tissue. By incorporating historic as well as modern data on the survival ship of such a severe lesion, the scientists concluded that the Iceman died within a short time due to this lesion.
“Such obvious proof of a vascular lesion in a body of this historic age is unique, and it helped to determine the cause of this extraordinary death without a destructive autopsy. We look forward to further investigating the circumstances surrounding the Iceman’s sudden death,” explains Dr. Dr. Rühli.
Radiologic proof for the Iceman’s cause of death (ca. 5’300 BP)
Patrizia Perntera, Paul Gostnera, Eduard Egarter Viglb and Frank Jakobus Rühlic, d,
aDepartment of Radiology, General Hospital Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy
bDepartment of Pathological Anatomy and Histology, General Hospital Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy
cWorkgroup Applied Anatomy, Division of Macroscopic Anatomy, Institute of Anatomy, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 190, 8057 Zürich, Switzerland
dSwiss Mummy Project, Institute for the History of Medicine, University of Zurich, Hirschengraben 82, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Received 19 September 2006; revised 19 December 2006; accepted 20 December 2006. Available online 15 March 2007.
A possible cause of death of the Iceman – a ca. 5’300 BP natural human glacier mummy from the Tyrolean Alps – is an intrathoracic stone arrowhead. The aim of this study was to prove radiologically his enigmatic cause of death. In August 2005, the Iceman underwent his first multislice computed tomography examination. As the main pathologic finding, the left dorsal subclavian artery contures shows a 13 mm-long part where the vessel wall is damaged and a 3 mm-long irregular pseudo-aneurysm – a typical complication of a laceration of the subclavian artery. In the surrounding soft tissue a large haematoma is visible. Historic records highlight the fatal destiny of subclavian artery injuries e.g. due to massive active bleeding and shock-related cardiac arrest. Therefore, the Iceman’s cause of death by an arrowhead lacerating among others the left subclavian artery and leading to a deadly hemorrhagic shock can be now postulated with almost complete certainty, especially when taking the environmental (3’210 meters above sea level) and historic (5’300 BP) settings into account.
Keywords: Circulation; Imaging; Pathology; Radiography; Shock; Vasculature
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