The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology coordinates research on the Iceman. In collaboration with other institutions the Museum oversees archaeology projects on the Iceman and the prehistory and early history of South Tyrol.
Ongoing research projects:


Life at the water’s edge: Mesolithic settlement in Salurn

Between 8,400 – 7,500 B.C., in the Middle Stone Age, the Galgenbühel hill in Salurn was visited numerous times by groups of hunter-gatherers. This is shown by the discovery and excavation in 1999-2002 of places were fires had been lit under a small rock roof. Numerous archaeological finds were made and, as part of the project “Life at the water’s edge. Resources, technology and mobility in Mesolithic times using the example of the Galgenbühel site in Salurn (South Tyrol)”, these finds are now undergoing review. The body responsible for the project is the South Tyrolean Museum of Archaeology, partnered by the Office for Archaeological Heritage of the Province of Bozen, with archaeologist Ursula Wierer responsible for the direction of the project. The ongoing investigations aim to learn about the way of life of the Mesolithic population of the Etsch Valley and the reciprocal effects of the prevailing environmental conditions.

The project is being financed with the support of the Regional Office for Educational Opportunities, University and Research of the Autonomous Province of Bozen. The results are to be published.


Determining the leather and hide samples found with Ötzi

We know to a large extent which animals provided the hide and leather types discovered with the Iceman, but new research methods have permitted numerous corrections. Up until now, all skins and leather samples have been macroscopically determined by animal experts, while identification tests on a protein basis have also been carried out. For some samples it was possible to determine the animal family, but not the exact species. To confirm the first results from the University of Saarland (Germany), therefore, the DNA of all leather and fur samples from Ötzi has been examined in collaboration with the laboratory of the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano.

The results have been published in August 2016.


Archaeology in the Überetsch region

This project summarises the results of the archaeological investigations in the Überetsch region. A concluding publication gives an overview of the period of the settlement from the Middle Stone Age to the Early Middle Ages and presents the most important places of discovery and finds from the Überetsch region. The intention is to process and publish as fully as possible all existing accessible collection items. The finds originate from the Office for Archaeological Heritage, the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, the Bozen Municipal Museum, the von Mörl collections in Eppan/Appiano, the Ferdinandeum (Tyrolean regional museum) in Innsbruck (Austria) and the Museo del Buonconsiglio in Trento.

The project manager is Dr Günther Kaufmann, archaeologist at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.


Prehistoric settlement and the economy of the inner-Alpine high valleys, using the example of the Schnalstal Valley in South Tyrol


This research project aims to investigate whether the Schnalstal Valley and its side valleys were already settled in the Bronze Age (ca. 1000-2000 years after Ötzi the Iceman) or whether the users of the Schnalstal settlements originated from the Middle Vinschgau Valley. Research over the past years has revealed Bronze Age settlements in the Schnalstal Valley and some side valleys. Unusual small finds (amber and glass beads) indicate their use by a higher social class. The use of the discovery site has been linked to a pastoral economy. The extensive pasturelands of the Schnalstal are wellsuited to this purpose: there are however other reasons for frequenting the valley. The Tisenjoch and Hochjoch Passes offer direct access to the Upper Inn Valley – a bonus for travellers and traders alike, as it shortens the northwards route. The valley also contains grey copper ore and granite for the production of artefacts in the Penaudtal Valley and iron carbonate at the Taschljöchl Pass.

Interdisciplinary co-operation with palaeobotany (testing of pollens and macro-remains) and archaeozoological investigations permit the testing of archaeological finds and conclusions to be drawn about settlement and economic patterns. In addition, it is hoped to settle as-yet unresolved questions regarding the pastoral economy and discover more about prehistoric Alpine farming activities, of which relatively little is known.

The research project is a collaborative effort between the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, the Office for Archaeological Heritage of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano/South Tyrol and the Institute for Botany at the University of Innsbruck. Responsable researcher: Dr Andreas Putzer, archeologist, freelance collaborator of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.


Manufacturing marks and signs of use on the axe blade

The Iceman’s axe is to undergo a new microscopic examination. The aim is to shed new light on the tool marks, for example the manufacture of the ridges and the pointed edge of the blade as well as the closure of the casting hole. The researchers will also focus on the signs of use, for instance, the impression of the angled haft on the neck of the axe blade and nicks on the blade.

The project will be carried out in cooperation with the Museum of Nature South Tyrol.

Isotope analysis of the axe blade

Investigations will be performed on the origin of the copper that was used to fashion the Iceman’s axe. Analysis of the chemical composition and lead isotopes will provide information about the site from which the raw material originated. The groundwork has already been done by analysing copper deposits in the Alpine region. This will allow the source of the copper to be identified. First results have been released in September 2016.

The project is carried out with the Department of Geo-sciences, University of Padova.


Flint tools and the contents of the belt pouch

The contents of the Iceman’s belt pouch and his flint tools will also undergo a new micro-scopic examination with the aim of determining the source of the raw material more pre-cisely and analysing the signs of manufacture and use. The inventory concerned is spe-cial in that it is a closed complex, which, however, was not necessarily used or fashioned by one and the same individual.

The project will be carried out in cooperation with the archaeologists Ursula Wierer, Simona Arrighi, Stefano Bertola and Jacques Pelegrin.


Forensic analysis in cooperation with Munich Police Headquarters

Numerous examinations have been performed since the Iceman was first discovered in 1991. A milestone in the history of research into the Iceman was the discovery of an arrowhead embedded in his left shoulder, which has shed new light on his story: the fact that Ötzi was murdered. The aims of the forensic analysis are to draw up a profile of the perpetrator, analyse the circumstances surrounding the Iceman’s death and possibly determine the murder motive.

First results have been released in September 2016.

Säben II. The secular buildings of the Late Antiquity hilltop settlement

Säben had become a bishopric at least by the late 6th century. Systematic excavations were carried out at the hilltop fort in Klausen from 1978 to 1982. The first volume, Säben I, which appeared in 2015, dealt with the early Christian church on the hill. Now a survey of the secular buildings of the hilltop settlement is being published. This interdisciplinary project includes the archaeologic compilation of the artefacts and findings as well as the execution of further explorations and scientific research (radiocar-bon dating, osteologic and archaeometallurgic analyses).

We expect the project to provide new and important information on Alpine hilltop settle-ments from Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. In addition, the Säben settlement, which is already an important element of Klausen’s tourist attractions, will be enhanced and could eventually lead to the establishment of a museum.

A project of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology (project head: Günther Kaufmann).
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