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Frozen in time.

Last September, two mountain climbers scaling a glacier in the Austrian Alps made history - as well as prehistory - by chancing upon a body in the surrounding ice. They alerted scientists to their discovery, and within a week worldwide news reports described the freeze-dried, mummified body as that of a man who lived around 4,000 years ago, during Europe's Bronze Age.

But recent carbon dating of hay used for insulation in the man's boots indicates an age of about 5,300 years, placing him in the late Stone Age, reports Torstein Sjovold of the University of Stockholm, Sweden. Sjovold participates in the international scientific study of the prehistoric body and its associated paraphernalia, which began Feb. 6 at the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

The body retains a few patches of hair, and investigators are now analyzing the chemical makeup of about 1,000 individual hairs, Sjovold says. The man's front teeth show considerable wear, and one sports at blue tint of undetermined origin. Computer tomography scans indicate that he did not have third molars, or wisdom teeth. Several groups of dark marks on the man's legs and ankles appear to be tattoos, Sjovold says.

Research also focuses on artifacts found with the frozen body, including a copper axe (described in initial news reports as bronze), clothes fragments, a bow and quiver that still contained arrows, and a knapsack.

Scientists plan to examine the corpse for evidence of any prehistoric bacteria or parasites that might pose dangers to modern humans.

"The body will probably never be put on public display, although a replica might be exhibited," Sjovold says. "Many of us may be distantly related to this Stone Age man."
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Title Annotation:prehistoric body found
Author:Bower, Bruce
Publication:Science News
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Apr 18, 1992
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