Thursday, September 19, 1991 – 1.30 p.m.
Tisenjoch - 3210 m above sea level
Ötztal Alps (South Tyrol, Italy)
On a sunny day two hikers, Erika and Helmut Simon, from Nuremberg in Germany, were walking in the Ötztal Alps. Descending from the Finail peak in the Tisenjoch area, the Simons decided to take a shortcut and left the marked footpath. As they walked past a rocky gully filled with meltwater, they noticed something brown on the gully bed. At first they thought it must be some sort of rubbish, but on closer inspection they realized with horror that they had discovered a human corpse.
Only the back of the head, the bare shoulders and part of his back jutted out of the ice and meltwater. The corpse lay with its chest against a flat rock and its face obscured. Beside the corpse the two hikers noticed several pieces of rolled-up birch bark.
Before leaving the scene, they took a photograph of what they thought to be the unfortunate victim of a mountaineering accident a few years back.
At this point nobody could have imagined that the dead man and the objects around him were soon to gain worldwide fame.
The story of a 20th century archaeological sensation was about to unfold.