from the cooler-than-the-Fonz dept.
In 1991, a group of hikers found the mummified remains of Ötzi the Iceman emerging from a melting glacier. The popular interpretation—given the extraordinary preservation of the body—is that Ötzi fled from the valley after being attacked and froze to death in the gully where his mummified remains were found. His body and the tools he brought with him were quickly buried beneath the ice and remained frozen under a moving glacier for the next 5,300 years. The gully served as a kind of time capsule, protecting the remains from damage by the glacier.
But a new paper published in the journal The Holocene challenges that interpretation, suggesting that the Ötzi died elsewhere on the mountain and that normal environmental changes gradually moved his remains down into the gully. Further, for the first 1,500 years after his death, Ötzi's remains likely thawed and refroze at least once and quite possibly several times. That means it's much more likely that another ice mummy will be discovered, since no extraordinary circumstances are required to explain Ötzi's preservation.
[...] According to Lars Pilø, a glacial archaeologist with Norway's Department of Cultural Heritage, and his co-authors, even in 1992, there were some who questioned whether the mummy's remarkable preservation was due to extraordinary circumstances, most notably archaeologist Werner Meyer. The ensuing decades have seen the rise of so-called glacial archaeology, bringing its own methodology and a deeper understanding of just how complex archaeological ice sites can be. "The [original] story is so at odds with how glacial archaeological sites work," Pilø told Gizmodo. "We conclude that the find circumstances surrounding Ötzi are not a string of miracles, but can be better explained by normal processes on glacial archaeological sites."