A new old face for Otzi

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the discovery of Otzi the Iceman. On September 19, 1991, tourists Helmut and Erika Simon stumbled on a mummified corpse lying on his front embedded in the ice of the Ötztal Alps, just 100 yards inside the Italian border. At first authorities thought he was recently deceased and thus dug him out in a slapdash manner, damaging him with jackhammers and allowing lookie-loos to collect pieces of his clothing and accessories.

It was only after he was sent to the morgue that people realized he was 5,300 years old, Europe’s oldest natural mummy. He’s been on display in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology since 1998, where a panoply of researchers study him, regularly releasing new information about his life and death.

This year, the museum plans a variety of events and new exhibits to celebrate the 20th anniversary, including a new state-of-the-art reconstruction model of what Otzi might have looked like. There have been earlier attempts using anatomical data and measurements. In 1993, National Geographic published a reconstruction done by anthropologically-trained artist John Gurche, but he didn’t have a 3D cast of the skull to work from, which is a major stumbling block to creating anything like an accurate facial reconstruction. Gurche had to use CT scans and pictures as the basis for his model.

Now Alfons and Adrie Kennis, two Dutch experts in anthropological reconstruction models have created a new model of Otzi to display at the South Tyrol Museum’s Otzi20 exhibit. They used the latest scientific information and an exact 3D copy of the skull created from the most recent X-rays and CAT scans.

This latest work by these artists, famous for their reconstructions, shows a denizen of the Alps from the Stone Age, striking in the lifelike nature of every detail, from his skin colour down to the smallest wrinkle on his brow: of medium height, slight yet wiry, with narrow, sharp features, an unruly beard and tanned skin.

He looks much older than the earlier reconstructions. He was 40 when he died, so he was at first depicted as a strapping middle-aged man. However recent findings suggest that Otzi would have been weatherbeaten and prematurely aged by the harsh environment of the Copper Age Alps, and that his eyes were brown, not blue as previously thought.

Here’s the new reconstruction on the left, the early 90s version on the right:

New reconstruction of Otzi the Iceman, courtesy National Geographic Germany 1993 National Geographic reconstruction of Otzi

15 thoughts on “A new old face for Otzi

  1. It’s sort of fitting I guess. The early Nineties one sort of has a grunge/alternative thing going but the modern one looks like he’s living out of dumpsters.

  2. There is also a way to see what you would look like yourself as a neanderthal man or woman. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington DC has a photo booth in the Evolution exhibit that will do the trick. You sit down on a bench and align your mouth and eyes in a grid. Then, take the picture and send it to your email address. It’s wierd, but interesting. It’s free and they don’t bug you with follow-up promotional emails or solicitations. For those of you who want to go even more primitive, there is a pre-human option available, too. Be forewarned, however, you probably won’t look any nicer than the new and improved version of Otzi the Iceman.

      1. Yep. That looks exactly like the application at the museum. Actually, it’s more fun to watch people line up and react after having their picture taken.

  3. I just don’t get it. How can they be so sure about Otzi but they can’t even pin piont how he died. :skull: i mean they think they know but they can never be certain. And come on if you don’t even know who this man died u can’t say u are an expert !!!!!!! 😮

  4. Umm that is not a very smart comment know is it the guy has been dead for 5000 years what is he suposed to look like he’s dead for petes sake :skull: :skull: :skull:

  5. Why do u all keep refering him to modern day people this guy is dead and gezz u really think he looked like that i mean how are they actually suposed to know come on think of the logic!!!!!!! :no:

  6. I think the newly reconstructed picture may be a little more acurate then the 90’s one i mean don’t get me wrong it’s a good interitation but i just don’t think it’s to acurate thats all sorry :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare: :blankstare:

  7. @ Savvy: I think it’s far more accurate than you think it is. Just because you may not understand how they came up with the image, doesn’t mean it’s impossible.

    As the blog entry has said, they used CT scans. This is done so they can have a model of the actual bone structure of the skull.

    When you have a skull, it’s only a matter of persistence and perseverance, with exacting artistic and mathematical skills in order to reconstruct a dead person’s face from the shape of the skull. They also have to take into consideration the racial makeup of the individual as well.

    Once they have the information they need, they have to then measure the distances of specific points of the face, outwards. They know the locations and thicknesses of the muscle and skin at those specific locations.

  8. It’s called the Snow Method of Depth Markers. Clyde Snow, one of the US’s foremost forensic anthropologists, from Norman, OK, developed the technique and formula for identification of humans by measurement of tissue depth variations on specific points on the skull. Through this method, he identified countless individuals and groups, in many countries, from victims of accidents and crimes in single or mass graves, from ancient or recent cultures – most famously Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. A veritable Indiana Jones, he was an Air Force office, and archaeologist, PhD anthropologist, and inventive problem-solver. His stories are good reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.