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Scientists Discover That Ötzi The Iceman Sharpened His Tools 33 Hours Before He Was Killed

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Since the discovery of Ötzi the Iceman in 1991, researchers continue to analyze and learn new things about Europe's oldest known natural human mummy.

What Did Scientists Conclude?

A new study confirmed the type of tools that Ötzi had on him and the events that likely led up to his death. Ötzi, named after the Otztal Alps where he was discovered, died between 3370 B.C. and 3100 B.C. during the Copper Age.  

The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE on June 20.

About 33 hours before his death, researchers concluded that Ötzi journeyed up a mountain, went down a slope, and ate three meals. During this time, Ötzi was involved in a trio of conflicts. At least one of the conflicts left him wounded.

"I can't say," study co-researcher Ursula Wierer told Live Science about Ötzi preparing for the fights. "But I think he resharpened [his tools] because maybe he had some work in mind [that he wanted] to do with these modified tools."

What Kind Of Tools Did Ötzi Have?

This was the first study, to identify that the Ötzi's stone tools came from different regions in Italy, proving that there had likely been an ongoing trade in the area. The researchers discovered that Ötzi was likely expecting to be attacked because he resharpened his tools 33 hours before his death. The tools were in his bags when he died.

Some of the Iceman's tools included a small flake, an antler retoucher, an antler spike, two arrowheads, and an endscraper for cutting. He also had a dagger, but it was more cosmetic than practical.

Researchers say that the tools that Otzi had were not impressive, which could mean that he was doomed. His reduced toolkit only contained basic tools, and there were no signs that he was going to replace them.

How Did Scientists Conduct This Research?

Scientists used high-powered microscopes and CT scans to examine Ötzi's tools. They specifically checked to see how often each tool was used. The findings could help scientists learn more about how people in Europe lived around this time.

"Through analyzing the Iceman's toolkit from different viewpoints and reconstructing the entire life cycle of each instrument, we were able to gain insights into Ötzi's cultural background, his individual history, and his last hectic days," Wierer told Gizmodo. "We were dealing with the toolkit of a specific person, about whom we already knew a great deal. This made the research all the more exciting."

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