They call him Otzi.
He’s a really old guy with more than 60 tattoos who apparently took medicinal mushrooms. He dates back to the Copper Age. And forensic scientists are pretty sure he was murdered — or possibly sacrificed in some kind of ritual.
Otzi came to public attention in 1991, when a couple of hikers in the Otztal Alps on the Italian-Austrian border stumbled on his largely intact corpse jutting out of some melting ice. Dead for 5,000 years, he’d been naturally mummified by the cold.
Scientists nicknamed him for the mountain range where he was found and started studying him: One reason for some of his many tattoos may have been an acupuncture-style form of pain relief, and the possessions found with him included some birch-fungus mushrooms that have antibacterial properties. He was lactose-intolerant and may have had Lyme disease.
He died at about age 45, after receiving a blow to the head and an arrowhead wound that probably hit an artery in his shoulder. The sequencing of his genome in 2012 revealed he was directly related to 19 living Austrians.
There’s a lot more: Otzi has been the subject of many studies and a great deal of media attention in the past quarter-century, including a NOVA special called “Iceman Murder Mystery” in 2012. But he’s been hard to glimpse because the body has been preserved in a special freezer with only a small window for viewing.
Now NOVA is following “paleo-sculptor” Gary Staab, who specializes in creating models of extinct species for museums, as he gets rare access to the body to create a 3-D reconstruction, layer by internal layer, of the body of the living Stone Age Otzi.
The special will premiere Feb. 17 on PBS.