Ice Travel – Ötzi the Iceman

otzi-jogÖtzi was found lying in melt-water on a granite slab in a gully strewn with large boulders in the South Tyrol, a few metres from the Italian border with Austria, 3210 metres above sea level.

Hikers Erika and Helmut Simon, from Nuremberg, made the discovery at one thirty in the afternoon of Thursday, September 19, 1991. They were descending from the Finail peak in the Tisenjoch area of the Ötztal Alps. A four-meter-high stone pyramid now marks the spot.

Ötzi had consumed berries, bread, fruit, grains, deer meat and seeds shortly before his absurd death. Much has been made about his discovery and condition, but if Ötzi’s stomach contents reveal anything, it is one amazing fact.

Traditional foods have been with us for a very long time, and they haven’t changed as much as we might expect. Although agriculture, herding and dairy farming were changing the habits of the last hunter- gatherers, carbohydrates from barley, einkorn and spelt grains, minerals and vitamins from berries, fruits, grains and seeds, and protein from various wild meat remained essential to well-being.

Ötzi would have cooked over an open fire the meat of animals recently killed. He would have baked flatbreads (more like biscuits) made from coarsely ground cultivated grains. He would have eaten dried food, such as mushrooms, carried in pouches. And he would have gathered fresh berries, roots and seeds.

The absence of cheese from Ötzi’s diet is not relevant to that time. Cheese-making was the only way to store surplus milk, and is a significant consequence of the civilisation that began to emerge after his passing. Milk would not have featured in Ötzi’s diet. Apparently he was lactose intolerant, as many people were in those days and remarkably still are.

Today a walker in the Alps would eat a meal similar to the last one Ötzi consumed. Air-dried meat would replace the freshly-cooked meat, yeast bread would replace the unleavened flatbread.