Who Killed Oetzi the Iceman?

He is one of history’s most famous archaeological finds.  He may also be one of history’s most infamous unsolved crimes.

The victim was shot in the back with an arrow, and probably bled to death within minutes.  Because he was killed in the Oetztaler Alps in Italy, his body was frozen in the ice.  That was 5,300 years ago.  Today, “Oetzi” is one of the oldest and best-preserved mummies in the world.

Agilent has been instrumental in uncovering what we know about Oetzi.  Agilent’s Rudi Grimm used LC-MS, GC-MS, ICP-MS and next-generation sequencing to perform the first paelo-multiomics study of the mummy, including genomics, proteomics, glycomics, metabolomics, lipidomics and metallomics.  We have blogged about Dr. Grimm’s work here.

Recently, Italy decided to reopen this coldest of cold cases, employing a professional police inspector to analyze the forensic evidence.

“I was asked by the director if I work on cold cases,” says Detective Chief Inspector Alexander Horn, from the Munich Police Department.  “The usual cold case that we have is 20 or maybe 30 years old, and now I was asked to work on a case 5,300 years old.”  (BBC)

In reality, Oetzi’s preserved body was in better shape than many modern victims.

After examining both the body and the scene of the crime, Inspector Horn formed his hypothesis.  Oetzi was probably ambushed and killed by surprise, as the result of an ongoing grudge.

Horn’s conclusion was aided by Agilent’s analysis of Oetzi’s stomach.  “About half an hour before he was killed, he was having a rest up there,” Horn says.  “He was having quite a heavy lunch or meal at least, so it doesn’t seem like he was in a rush or fleeing from something.”

And the unknown perpetrator?  He “got away with that murder,” says Horn.

(Image by Thilo Pharg / Wikimedia Commons, License: CC BY-SA 3.0)


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