Origin of copper from Ötzi’s axe identified

Researchers analysed the copper from Ötzi the Iceman’s axe, identifying its place of origin in central Italy. It seems the object made a long way from its place of mining to the place in Northern Italy, where the Bronze Age frozen body was found.

Coppper axe found by Ötzi (by South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

The mummified remains and belongings of the iceman dubbed Ötzi, found in 1991, have underwent numerous analysis on the course of last years. Recently experts were able to establish that his axe originated about 500 kilometres to the South in what is now central Italy’s Southern Tuscany region. At present it is unclear whether Ötzi acquired the Tuscan copper as raw material or as a finished blade. Researchers previously suspected the copper came from known ore deposits 100 kilometres or less from the site of the Iceman’s demise. But comparing the mix of different forms of lead, or isotopes, in the axe with that in copper ore from present-day deposits across much of Europe indicated that the ancient man’s blade came from Southern Tuscany. Earlier radiocarbon measurements of a wooden shaft, originally found attached to the copper blade by leather straps and birch tar, date the tool to roughly 5300 years ago. Archaeologists suspect that there was an extensive trade network funnelled copper from Southern Tuscany to the Iceman’s Alpine territory.

(after Science News & South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

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