Saturday, 23 July 2011

Ancient Curses 2: Otzi the Ice Man

'Hello! My name is Buffy. Ask me about curses.'

- Buffy the Vampire Slayer,  episode 1, Season 6

Welcome to Buddha's Black Dog, my blog on curses and spells: for what it's about  (and my other blogs).  see  
Buddha's Black Dog is  organised thematically, and older posts will be linked to  after each post.

The discovery of a well-preserved Neolithic body in the Alps in 1991 caused a wholly justified sensation. 'Otzi' as he was dubbed, had been in a glacier since around 3300 BC, and was well-equipped for survival. He had tools for fire-making, dried fruit, and had sophisticated weapons including a yew bow, and was seen at first as a shepherd or hunter, or possibly travelling trader. At least one journalist wrote a charming portrait of Otzi as an early European citizen, dying of hypothermia while making his way between peaceful communities.

Bizarre rumours about Otzi's madly hypothesized sexuality began almost immediately after his dicovery. He was said to be homosexual; he had no penis, he was a castrated priest or shaman. His sperm was was supposed to be still viable, and Austrian women supposedly made enquiries about how to be impregnated by him. None of this was made any sort of sense of course but was indicative of a widespread need to make sense of someone transplanted (even as a corpse) into modernity from the Neolithic.

Otzi became a fantasy figure of Euro solidarity, of a harmonious Europe: he was portrayed in numerous articles as the symbol of a Europe without boundaries, a peaceful wanderer through peaceful communities. 

Two years after his discovery, however, someone finally noticed that Otzi had an arrowhead embedded in him. Suddenly we knew how Otzi died. The arrow had hit close to his lungs, shattered his shoulderblade and he had bled to death within hours. DNA evidence from his arrowheads and dagger confirmed he had been in a deadly struggle with others  (his arrows had DNA from two people).

In 2005, newspaper reports started mentioning a so-called 'Otzi curse',  in the grand old tradition of 'mummy' curses - see Ancient Curses, .

By the end of 2005, the BBC was reporting 'speculation' about a 'curse' and saying that seven people connected with the discovery of Otzi had died in 'unclear' circumstances. Quite why the BBC felt it should report such matters in such a manner is another and sadder story, but certainly there is no mystery about people dying (one of the 'mystery' deaths was of a climber caught in an 'unexpected' blizzard). And there are dozens if not hundreds of people  connected with Otzi's discovery who are alive and well, indeed in some cases litigating - there are various claimants to being the true finder of Otzi.

See, and The Prehistory of Sex (1996), Timothy Taylor.



ANCIENT CURSES 1: the Curse of Akkad
CURSES THAT WORKED 1: the Curse of Shakespeare's Tomb

My other blogs are

A Glasgow Album - a photoblog drifting in a melancholy manner around the city


a series of photographs of dogs tied up outside shops and other places (not too melancholy)


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