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Ice Mummies—Return of the Iceman

Program Overview


Map of world with Italian Alps indicated NOVA examines how science is unlocking the secrets of the Iceman, a man discovered in 1991 frozen in the Italian Alps.


  • Found with the Iceman are a copper axe, leather clothes, flint tools, shoes lined with grass, and a quiver full of arrows.

  • Mapping of the site shows that the body—thought to have been discovered in Austria—was actually found 92 meters (100 yards) inside the Italian border.

  • A battery of tests—including carbon dating, microscopic analysis, X-rays and endoscopy—reveal that the Iceman:

    • had been frozen for about 5,300 years, making him the oldest frozen mummy ever found;

    • had heavily worn joints;

    • was about 45 years old;

    • Ate a last meal of meat and rough milled wheat; and

    • had traces of copper on the surface of his hair and arsenic inside, indicating that he might have been involved in smelting.

  • Reconstructive archeology demonstrates how the Iceman might have built and used his copper axe.

Teacher's Guide
Ice Mummies—Return of the Iceman
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