Ice

Ötzi the mummified Iceman actually froze to death

Ötzi

NEW ORLEANS, La. — In 1991, hikers in the high Alps along the Austrian-Italian border discovered the remains of a man frozen in the ice for some 5,300 years. What had killed this man — nicknamed, Ötzi (OOT-see) the Iceman — has remained a mystery. A new analysis comes to a fairly simple conclusion: It was the weather.

“Freezing to death is quite likely the main cause of death in this classic cold case,” reports Frank Rühli. An anthropologist, he works at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Ötzi had been a Copper Age hunter-gatherer. And it appears that the extreme cold killed him within anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Rühli shared his team’s new assessment April 20, here, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

Ötzi had a range of injuries. In fact, some analyses had hinted he might have been the earliest known murder victim. After all, he had been shot. A stone arrowhead remained in his left shoulder. He also had a series of head wounds.

Researchers have now subjected his remains to new forensic analyses. These included X-rays and CT scans. They show the stone weapon did not penetrate far into the shoulder. It ruptured a blood vessel but caused no major damage, Rühli reports. There was internal bleeding. It totaled only about 100 milliliters,…

Ötzi the mummified Iceman actually froze to death

Ötzi

NEW ORLEANS, La. — In 1991, hikers in the high Alps along the Austrian-Italian border discovered the remains of a man frozen in the ice for some 5,300 years. What had killed this man — nicknamed, Ötzi (OOT-see) the Iceman — has remained a mystery. A new analysis comes to a fairly simple conclusion: It was the weather.

“Freezing to death is quite likely the main cause of death in this classic cold case,” reports Frank Rühli. An anthropologist, he works at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. Ötzi had been a Copper Age hunter-gatherer. And it appears that the extreme cold killed him within anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. Rühli shared his team’s new assessment April 20, here, at the annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

Ötzi had a range of injuries. In fact, some analyses had hinted he might have been the earliest known murder victim. After all, he had been shot. A stone arrowhead remained in his left shoulder. He also had a series of head wounds.

Researchers have now subjected his remains to new forensic analyses. These included X-rays and CT scans. They show the stone weapon did not penetrate far into the shoulder. It ruptured a blood vessel but caused no major damage, Rühli reports. There was internal bleeding. It totaled only about 100 milliliters,…

Antarctica Is Covered in Rivers, Lakes, and Waterfalls. That Might Not Be Good.

The floating ice shelves that buttress Antarctica are less icy than we thought, it turns out. They’re filled with flowing water. New research published in the scientific journal Nature maps the extensive network of meltwater from Antarctica’s ice sheets and found that, contrary to previous understanding, lakes and rivers—even waterfalls—created by melting have been common for at least seven decades.

Two new papers analyze satellite imagery of Antarctica dating back to 1973 and aerial photography dating back to 1947 for evidence of meltwater. Warming oceans melt ice shelves around from the bottom up, while warming air temperatures melt them from the top down, creating pools and rivers of liquid water on the continent’s surface.

Researchers found that over the last 70 years, a system of meltwater drainage has transported water from the continent of Antarctica across the floating ice shelves that surround it, traveling up to 75 miles and creating ponds up to 50 miles long.

This isn’t great news for the stability of the ice shelf. Water is heavy, and the weight can cause the ice below these lakes to crack. As…

Freezer Malfunction Melts Precious Arctic Ice Samples

When your freezer breaks down, you might lose some leftovers or a box of your favorite popsicles. But when a scientist’s freezer malfunctions, the world stands to lose thousands of years’ worth of stored history. That’s what happened last week, when an equipment failure at the University of Alberta (UAB) melted ancient samples of Arctic ice.

An ice core is kind of like the vertical equivalent of a tree’s rings. The gas bubbles, sediment, and chemicals trapped in each of its many layers tell a story about the world at that particular moment in time.

UAB’s Canadian Ice Core Archive holds 12 cores—nearly 1 mile of ice—representing roughly 80,000 years of our planet’s history. Some of the samples have been in storage since the 1970s. Many of them are now considerably smaller than they were a few weeks ago.

Each long,…