Album: A new face for Ötzi the Iceman Mummy

A New, Old Man

Otzi, iceman mummy reconstruction

(Image credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Foto Ochsenreiter)

Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old mummy from the Alps, has a new face. Using a combination of forensic science and artistry, Dutch brothers Adrie and Alfons Kennis reconstructed his face for a new exhibit at the museum where his remains are housed, the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy.

A Copper Age Man

Iceman, Copper Age

(Image credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Foto Ochsenreiter)

In 1991, hikers stumbled across Ötzi's mummified and frozen remains, along with his clothes and equipment, in the Ötztal Alps near the Italian-Austrian border. He is believed to have lived between 3350 and 3100 B.C., before Stonehenge or the pyramids of Giza were built.

A New Face

Otzi, iceman skull

(Image credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Heike Engel 21Lux)

Various studies have explored how Ötzi died, what he ate and whether he has any living relatives, but one of the most frequently asked questions – what did he look like? – lingers, according to the museum.

Science and Artistry

Otzi, iceman reconstruction

(Image credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Heike Engel 21Lux)

The Kennis brothers recreated Ötzi's face based on 3D images of his skull. A photographer, Heike Engel documented the process for half a year.

Resting Place

Otzi, iceman mummy

(Image credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Marco Samadelli)

A Viennese journalist coined Ötzi’s name, which is derived from the Ötztal Alps, where he was found. The site, shown above, was originally believed to be in Austria, but a survey conducted after the mummy was found revealed it was actually in South Tyrol, Italy.

Preserved by Luck

Iceman mummy

(Image credit: Franco Rollo, University of Camerino)

Previous research indicates Ötzi died from the lost blood caused by a wound from an arrow. But fortunately for history, he died in a protected gully, high in a cold glacier region. Snow covered his body, which remained protected from the flow of the glacier by the gully, according to the museum.

Joe Copper Age

iceman, otzi mummy

(Image credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

In the time since Ötzi's discovery, researchers have gleaned bits and pieces of his identity. Ötzi’s bone tissue puts him at about 46-years-old when he died, a ripe old age for his time. He appears typical of the Copper Age in other respects as well, standing about 5 feet 3 inches (1.6 meters) tall and weighting around 110.2 pounds (50 kilograms).

Maintaining a Mummy

Otzi, iceman mummy in refrigerator

(Image credit: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

Ötzi's remains are kept in a refrigerated cell at the museum, which mimics the wet, cold glacial conditions that preserved his body. A unique cooling system makes it possible for the mummy to be displayed.

Wynne Parry
Wynne was a reporter at The Stamford Advocate. She has interned at Discover magazine and has freelanced for The New York Times and Scientific American's web site. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Utah.