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Fingernägel von Ötzi

The State of Ötzi’s Health

Having lived to the ripe old age of around 45, Ötzi must have been one of the eldest members of his community. His body shows clear signs of degeneration: his joints are worn and his arteries hardened. His teeth are also worn and show signs of decay and periodontosis.

Ötzi’s body bears the signs of injuries sustained during his lifetime: a well-healed multiple rib fracture on the left side as well as a fracture of the nasal bone. A cyst-like growth on the little toe of his left foot may have been caused by frostbite.

The Iceman suffered from whipworm infestation (Trichuris trichiura). Botanists found eggs of these parasites in the mummy’s gut.

When Ötzi’s hair was analyzed for traces of metal, the results showed considerably lower levels of lead than in people today. On the other hand, the arsenic content was much higher. In all probability the Iceman was occasionally involved in the smelting of metal ores and the extraction of copper.

Examination of the one fingernail found at the scene revealed that the Iceman suffered from a chronic illness of some kind. Three of the so-called Beau-Reil lines across the nail indicate that Ötzi’s immune system was subjected to periods of severe stress 8, 13 and 16 weeks before his death. The most recent line is also the most pronounced.