Day trip destination
Ötzi find spot: On the trail of a glacier mummy
5,300 years ago a man met his violent death on Tisenjoch. The site is at an altitude of 3,200 meters and can be visited on a challenging mountain tour in Schnalstal.
He is probably the most famous South Tyrolean in the world: Ötzi, the Iceman. There have been films made about his life, books written, radio plays staged and fanfares composed. The circumstances of his death, the contents of his stomach, his clothes and equipment, his age, his origin and state of his health, even his tattoos have been and continue to be the subject of worldwide interest, and rightly so! The glacier mummy, which was discovered in September 1991 on the Tisenjoch in Schnalstal valley, is one of the most significant finds of our time. Today you can see the oldest mummy in the world in the South Tyrolean Archaeological Museum in Bozen, where a permanent exhibition is dedicated to it.
A stone pyramid in everlasting ice
It was 19th September 1991 when the German mountaineering couple Erika and Helmut Simon discovered an icy human corpse on the Tisenjoch below the Fineilspitze summit in Schnalstal valley. It wasn’t until days after the complex recovery that it became clear that the body was not, as had been first suspected, that of a mountaineer, but a mummy from the Copper Age. The expert on prehistory and early history, Konrad Spindler certified the body as being at least 4000 years old. Due to the ideal location of the site on Similaun, a 3 by 7 metres wide hollow below the Fineilspitze, Ötzi's body was protected from the destructive forces of the moving glacier for thousands of years. The fact that the mummy was discovered at all was due to the hot summer and the consequent severe glacial melt. During the subsequent archaeological inspections of the Ötzi site, a quiver and its contents were found, as well as laces, fur remains, birch bark, parts of a grass mat and a perfectly preserved fur hat. Ötzi also carried a copper hatchet and a bow with him. The discovery of the glacier mummy in Schnals is a huge asset to South Tyrol as well as countless humanities and scientific research institutes, not least because of how well it is preserved and its age. With the help of radiocarbon dating, the mummy was able to be estimated at around 5,250 years old. Regular research on the glacier mummy in the last few decades has continually provided new findings about how people in the Copper Age lived. Today a large stone pyramid located nearby commemorates the sensational archaeological find.
The ‘Ötzi Glacier Tour’
For those who want to see up close where Ötzi was found, we recommend a guided hike or ski tour, depending on the weather conditions. These challenging mountain hikes or ski tours are organised by the Schnalstal valley tourist office all year round. The full-day tour can also be undertaken without a mountain guide. However, it is important to find out the current weather conditions and the opening times of the Similaunhütte before setting off.
The seven-hour excursion to the Ötzi site starts from the car park in Vernagt in Schnalstal. From there the path takes you past the Tisenhof inn, where you will discover ancient cup marks along the footpath. The path continues through Tisental to the Similaun hut on the Niederjoch. You will reach Tisenjoch and the stone pyramid near the Ötzi find spot via a rocky ridge and an only partly-secured path.