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Iceman: Uncovering the Life and Times of a Prehistoric Man Found in an Alpine Glacier

by Brenda Fowler

On a warm September day in 1991, two German hikers stumbled upon a frozen, intact body melting out of the remains of a glacier in the Tyrolean Alps. Over the next few days, as a parade of often irreverent visitors poked and prodded the mummy-like corpse, curious items began to emerge from the ice: an ax with a metal blade, a longbow, finely stitched leather clothing, and--most astonishing of all--boots stuffed with grass. But only after the corpse was recovered and taken for an autopsy to the medical examiner in Innsbruck, Austria, did a vigilant archaeologist recognize that this was no ordinary dead body. Iceman is the story of the international scientific investigation launched to study the world's oldest naturally preserved human corpse and the astounding cache of prehistoric personal effects found with it. The dramatic narrative takes us from the day of the Iceman's discovery through eight years of scientific investigation, political intrigue, bizarre theories, and ravenous media coverage. The product of more than one hundred interviews with researchers in Austria, Italy, and Germany,Iceman follows scientists into labs and archaeologists into the field as they search for clues to the life and times of a man who lived before the advent of writing and cities. Who was he? Why were parts of his equipment damaged and unfinished? Where was he going? How did he die? Iceman is not merely a compendium of data but the story of the forces that produced and shaped them. At times, debates over who owned the Iceman and what should be done with him overshadowed the research. Brenda Fowler chronicles the scientists' squabbles and ego trips and the unexpected twists in the research, including the claim that the Iceman was a fraud and the mystery of his missing penis. Along the way, the authority of science is powerfully questioned and then, largely, reaffirmed in a surprise ending that has already led to a reexamination of the Iceman's final hours and his five millennia in the ice.

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