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Ötzi the Iceman @ Mummy Tombs

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The Stele

 

Was the Iceman's death carved on an ancient stone stele?

Books about Ötzi

Lorenzo Dal Ri, director of the archaeological office of the Bolzano province, has reported that an ancient stone stele was used to build a church altar contains carvings that seem to record the Iceman's death. Dal Ri told a reporter that one part of the carved stele "shows an archer ready to shoot an arrow on an unarmed man's back...[which bears] an impressive resemblance with Ötzi's death. It is indeed a fascinating hypothesis, though we can't say for sure this is the picture of Ötzi's murder." 

Dal Ri plans to study the stele further. Although it comes from Ötzi's general time period (the Copper Age), it must be more precisely dated. Even if further study does not link the stele to the Iceman's death, the stone is still important as an early representation of murder. 

The stele was reported in Brenda Fowler's book, Iceman. Fowler refers to it as a statue-menhir rather than a stele, but she is describing the same carved stone. 

She describes how an archaeologist named Hans Northdurfter first found the statue-menhir:

Carved into the massive stone were dozens of symbols and other representations. Like other northern Italian statue-menhirs, this one had originally been sculpted into a rather boxy, humanlike shape. But it had been through a lot of recycling. The head section was cut away, and the sides and the bottom were also shaved down. All that remained was the chest region of the figure, bound at the waist by a band of wavy lines. Clusters of dots and concentric circles had also been chiseled into the rock. But what most intrigued Northdurfter was the carving of a long-handled ax in the upper left corner.... The blade protruded at a familiar angle, and its edges flared out the slightest bit. Northdurfter recognized it at once. The statue-menhir depicted a man with an ax that looked like the Iceman's. And it was in his neighborhood... [l]ocated within a day's hike of the Hauslabjoch....

The stele can be found in the town of Laces (or Latsch), not far from the Schnalstal valley where the Iceman made his final walk.

It is a small village, with a traffic light, a few shops, and the church where the stele can be found, Santa Maria sul Colle.

The church is generally locked, for fear that vandals may loot it of valuable artifacts. A trip to Laces is rewarding, though, if simply to look at the church itself.