On a clear day in September 1991 a couple hiking along a high ridge in the Alps came upon a corpse melting out of the ice. When they returned to the mountain hut where they were staying, they alerted the authorities, who assumed the body was one of the missing climbers lost every year in the crevasses that crisscross the glaciers of the region. But after the remains were delivered to nearby Innsbruck, Austria, Konrad Spindler, an archaeologist from the university there, ascertained that the corpse was prehistoric. The victim, a male, had died several thousand years ago. Spindler and other scientists deduced that his body and belongings had been preserved in the ice until a fall of dust from the Sahara and an unusually warm spell combined to melt the ice, exposing his head, back and shoulders.
No well-preserved bodies had ever been found in Europe from this period, the Neolithic, or New Stone Age. The Iceman is much older than the Iron Age men from the Danish peat bogs and older even than the Egyptian royal mummies. Almost as astounding was the presence of a complete set of clothes and a variety of gear.
This article was originally published with the title The Iceman Reconsidered.