Saturday, April 25, 2009

Otzi, the Ice Man

The Nebraska Renaissance Faire is a week away, so I am busy making preps. Invariably, the topic of the Otzi, the ice man, comes up a number times as I present stone age skills' demonstrations. This was a fascinating discovery. In 1991 a couple hiking in the Otzal Alps, on the border between Austria and Italy, happened upon a 5300 year old mummified man thawing out of the glacier. This is how he recieved his nickname, Otzi, from the Otzal region where he was discovered. His body, clothing, and tools were remarkably preserved, giving insight to life in the Neolithic age in Europe. Among his possessions, I tried to recreate, his belt and its contents, along with his knife and retoucher. His belt had a pouch sewn into it, kind of a predecesor of the butt packs of today. He wore the pouch in front wrapping the ends twice around his body, tying in the front. In the pouch five items were recovered: a flint scraper, drill, and cutting flake; a bone awl; and a blackened piece of tinder fungus with bits a marcassite in it. Apparently, he had made fire by striking sparks off of a nodule of marassite with a flint striker into the prepared tinder fungus. (I have tried this technic but have not been successful yet.) Originally tied to the belt was a sheath of twined bast fibers that held a small triangular stone bladed dagger. On the other side was a retoucher, used to pressure flake edges on stone blades. This was unique in that it was a piece of stag antler pressed into the pithy section of a limb, to form a handle. It was then sharpened, somewhat like a pencil, as it wore from use. Probably one of the most important objects he possessed was an axe made of yew wood - with a copper blade in it. This find pushed back the advent of copper tools several hundred more years in Europe. You can read more about this discovery, and see more of his clothes and tools at the website for the South Tyrol Museum at: http://www.iceman.it/en/oetzi-the-iceman

7 comments:

Pablo said...

Great stuff Mark. I've added you to my blogroll.
Pablo
Pablo's Woodlife

grimbo said...

great post,he is one of my heroes..great reconstructon of his kit..ive featured a rss feed on my web site so everyone can see your posts....
its in the neanderthal group section,
http://wolfbushcraft.ning.com/

Grizzly Bear said...

Saw your demonstration at the RenFaire. Most impressive. I'm glad you came. I've always enjoyed live educational demonstrations.

I told you about crafting a sewing needle from a turkey wishbone. On your advice I went scouting for deer bones. I have found some, cleaned them up and am beginning to fashion basic tools from them. You're right, they are much harder than turkey. I am in the process of gathering the materials for the fire bow.

You are a most resourceful individual. Thank you for sharing.

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