Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Deconstructing an (Ancient) Crime

"He's in better condition than recent homicide victims I've worked on who have been found out in the open."
"Imagine, we know the stomach contents of a person [who lived] 5,000 years ago. In a lot of cases we are not able to do that even now."
"It was a very active defensive wound, and interesting in the context that no other injuries are found on the body, no major bruises or stab wounds, so probably he was the winner of that fight, even possibly he killed the person who tried to attack him."
"Roughly half an hour before his death he was having a proper meal, even a heavy meal."
"If you're in a rush and the first thing is to get away from someone trying to kill you, that's not what you do [pay attention to details]."
"The aim of the offender was to kill him, and he decides to take a long-distance shot -- could be a learning effect from what happened one or two days before. Which is pretty much what you see all the time nowadays. Most homicides are personal and follow violence and an escalation of violence. 'I want to follow him, find him and kill him.' All the emotions we have in homicide, these things have not died out in all these years."
"This was not a robbery gone bad or something. You go back to your village with this unusual [copper] axe, it would be pretty obvious what had happened."
Detective Inspector Alexander Horn, Munich Police
Otzi the Iceman: Forensic artists put face to victim of 5,300 year old murder
Dutch forensic experts Alfons and Adrie Kennis create the first image of Otzi (inset) Photo Heike Engel, South Tyrol Museum of Alchaeology

The man was not lean, not overweight, but well muscled and in fine shape for someone of 45, obviously accustomed to moving about a lot on his size 7-1/2 feet. He had brown eyes and shoulder-length dark brown hair, was five feet, five inches tall, weighed 110 pounds, and lived and died five thousand years ago. His body was found intact, encased in a glacier at the northern Italian border with Austria, by two hikers, in 1991. And his discovery caused a worldwide sensation. His well-preserved body was the finest and most complete ever discovered of a human being who lived during the Copper Age.

And his body is being preserved at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, in Bolzano, Italy. He is known as 'The Iceman', and also as 'Otzi', named for the geography where he was found, close to the crest of the Otztal Alps. Detective Inspector Horn had been approached by Angelika Fleckinger, director of the Bolzano, Italy museum where Otzi was being kept, with the request that he agree to some forensic work in determining the cause of the Iceman's death, and Mr. Horn was agreeable to the prospect, the 'coldest case' he had ever been assigned to.

Because the high humidity of the ice in the glacier in which he had been frozen after death was instrumental in preserving his organs and skin in intact condition, the forensic experts who went to work on Otzi the Iceman were able to reach useful conclusions on the basis of the evidence they found. Traces of pollen found in his digestive tract enabled scientists to place his death to have taken place in late spring or early summer.
Otzi the Iceman’s Homeland

In the several days preceding his death, he had eaten three substantial meals, and descended from an elevation of some 6,500 feet to the floor of the valley below, then ascended the mountains once again. He was discovered 10,500 up the mountain where his death had occurred. A deep, disabling cut which had been sustained mere days before his death, was noted in his right hand, penetrating the bone. Mr. Horn theorized from what he saw, and from his vast store of experience as a detective, that Otzi might have been embroiled in a violent altercation in his village.

The theory went so far as to assume that whoever the violent contest was with, Otzi might have prevailed, then decided to leave the village, provisioning himself for a trip with food, fire embers wrapped within leaves inside a birch-bark cylinder, and assorted equipment. He had with him a small flint dagger, and an almost completed bow, along with arrows, also in a state of near completion. Clearly, he meant at some point in his journey to finish his weapons, but seemed in no particular hurry to do so. He was not expecting to encounter any problems on his journey.

He made camp in a gully on the saddle of the mountain, had his dinner of Ibex meat, einkorn wheat, fat and bracken. A half hour later someone appeared behind him at a distance of  30 metres, took aim and shot him in the back. The arrow entered under his left armpit, ripping a half-inch section of his subclavian artery, a deadly wound. The angle of the wound led to estimations that he would have been shot from below and behind.

Nothing, it seems, from the investigation, that Otzi had taken with him was spirited away. He had a copper axe, which at the time would have been a tool/weapon of estimable value. And nor was his clothing disturbed, made from leather and fur of ten animals representing six species common to the geography. To take possession of either axe or clothing items, returning to the village with them, would have represented a dead giveaway of the perpetrator's intent, success and spoils.

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