TWO German hikers stumbled upon the remains of a 5,300-year-old human corpse by accident, unearthed accounts show.
When Erika and Helmut Simon began their hike into the Ötztal Alps, little did they know it would be a life-changing day. The mountain-lovers were just beginning the final part of their trek from Fineilspitze to the Similaun hut when they made a haunting discovery. Taking a shortcut from the Tisenjoch pass in September 1991, the tourists stumbled upon the head and shoulders of a human corpse poking out of a rocky gully at an elevation of more than 3,200 metres. His left arm was twisted under his body, and skin still covered his bones.
They believed it was a recently deceased mountaineer, as did the Austrian authorities, but they couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Erika told BBC’s ‘Horizon’ documentary in February 2002: “My husband walked in front of me a bit and then suddenly he stopped and said ‘look at what’s lying there’, and I said ‘oh, it’s a body’.
“Then my husband took a photograph, just one, the last we had left in the camera.”
Helmut added: “We thought it was a mountain climber or a skier who’d had an accident perhaps 10 years previously or perhaps two years previously.”
Given the assumption he had only recently died, little care was taken removing the man, who later became known as Ötzi, after the mountain region where he was discovered.
The day after the Simon’s made the discovery, a mountain gendarme and keeper of the nearby Similaunhütte first attempted to extract the body with a pneumatic drill and ice axes, but had to give up due to bad weather.
It was semi-officially removed two days later, and finally salvaged on September 23.
The extraction process had punctured the man’s hip.
His body was taken to a morgue in nearby Innsbruck, alongside the items he carried with him.
Among the items retrieved were a copper axe, a flint dagger and retoucher (used for sharpening flint blades), a birch bark container presumably used for carrying charcoal, and an unfinished longbow with arrows and a quiver.
His extensive and practical equipment suggested a wide-ranging knowledge about wilderness survival.
The axe, the only one of its kind in the world, was in excellent condition and provided vital information about how axes were made in the Copper Age.
An. “Brinkwire Summary News”.