Category Archives: SWITZERLAND

Scientists Examine Iceman’s Neolithic Hunting Kit

Scientists identify 5,300-year-old sinew bowstring used by Otzi the Iceman

Swiss researchers are astounded to have identified Ötzi’s bowstring. Even though the Iceman had still been working on his bow, he carried a finished twisted string in his quiver which was made of animal fibers and not of plant fibers. It is elastic, extremely resilient, and is therefore ideal as a bowstring.

A length of cord found alongside the body of Ötzi the Iceman, the Neolithic hunter who was discovered entombed in ice high in the Dolomites, has been identified as a string for his wooden bow.

An extensive research project was carried out by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) which examined materials of Neolithic bows and arrows in detail for the first time. These were then compared to Ötzi’s equipment.

The cord, which was found tucked into a quiver used by the 5,300-year-old Iceman for keeping his arrows, is made of animal sinew – ideal material for producing a strong, powerful bow.

It is two meters long, almost exactly the same length as the bow that was found beside the mummified body of the hunter when he was discovered by a pair of hikers on the Schnalstal glacier in 1991.

“We had long hoped (for this) and now it has finally been confirmed by science: the cord in Ötzi’s quiver is indeed a bowstring and it fits his bow perfectly,” the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology, where the mummified body of the Neolithic tribesman is kept in a climate-controlled chamber, said in a statement.

The preserved remains of Ötzi the Iceman

It was previously thought the cord was made of plant material, but plant fibers “would not have withstood the tension of the bow and as such wouldn’t have been suitable for a bowstring,” said experts from the museum in Bolzano, in the German-speaking north of Italy.

The bowstring has been declared the oldest known and best preserved in the world.

The scientists from the Swiss National Science Foundation also discovered that the Copper Age hunter’s bow had been freshly-cut from a yew tree. It was not yet finished – they found marks left by a hatchet which would have been used to whittle and shape the wood.

A length of cord has been identified as a string for his wooden bow

“While arrows and arrowheads are relatively common finds worldwide, complete sets of hunting equipment consisting of bows, arrows, and sometimes even quivers are extremely rare and are only known from glacier finds of the Alpine arc,” the scientific team said.

“Prehistoric bowstrings are among the rarest of all finds in archaeological excavations. “The cord contained in Ötzi’s quiver may be the oldest preserved bowstring in the world,” said the experts, who published their research in the Journal of Neolithic Archeology.

They found that the hunter’s quiver was stitched from the skin of a chamois. A flap of leather protected the interior of the quiver, which held 14 arrows when Ötzi died.

“If required, it could be opened very quickly and an arrow could be pulled out with a single motion of the arm,” the scientists said. The discovery of Ötzi, in a 3,210m high mountain pass on the border of Austria and Italy, caused a sensation.

Intensive analysis of his weapons, clothes, and body – older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids – have added immeasurably to the understanding of the Neolithic age.  

Ötzi died after being struck in the back by an arrow, sparking a long-running mystery as to who may have wanted to kill him and why – the ultimate cold case.

His body and belongings were superbly preserved by the snow and ice of the mountains. He is thought to have been about 45 when he was murdered – a good age for the era.

Celtic woman found buried inside a TREE ‘wearing fancy clothes and jewellery’ after 2,200 years

Celtic woman found buried inside a TREE ‘wearing fancy clothes and jewellery’ after 2,200 years

The ancient corpse of a woman buried in a hollowed-out tree in Zurich, Switzerland. Pictured are parts of her remains including her skull (top), as well as her jewellery (a blue, bottom)

It’s believed the woman, who died 2,200 years ago, commanded great respect in her tribe, as she was buried in fine clothes and jewellery.

Scientists say the woman was Celtic. The Iron Age Celts are known to have buried members of their tribe in “tree coffins” buried deep underground.

The woman’s remains were found in the city of Zurich in 2017, according to Live Science.

Bedecked in a fine woolen dress and shawl, sheepskin coat, and a necklace made of glass and amber beads, researchers believe she performed little if any hard labor while she was alive. It’s estimated she was around 40 years old when she died, with an analysis of her teeth indicating a substantial sweet tooth.

Adorned in bronze bracelets and a bronze belt chain with iron clasps and pendants, this woman was not part of low social strata. Analysis of her bones showed she grew up in what is now modern-day Zurich, likely in the Limmat Valley.

Most impressive, besides her garments and accessories, is the hollowed-out tree trunk so ingeniously fixed into a coffin. It still had the exterior bark intact when construction workers stumbled upon it, according to the initial 2017 statement from Zurich’s Office of Urban Development.

While all of the immediate evidence — an Iron Age Celtic woman’s remains, her bewildering accessories, and clothing, the highly creative coffin — is highly interesting on its own, researchers have discovered a lot more to delve into since 2017.

The excavation site at the Kernschulhaus (Kern school) in Aussersihl, Zurich. The remains were found on March 2017, with results of all testing now shedding light on the woman’s life.

According to The Smithsonian, the site of discovery has been considered an archaeologically important place for quite some time. Most of the previous finds here, however, only date back as far as the 6th century A.D.

The only exception seems to have occurred when construction workers found the grave of a Celtic man in 1903. They were in the process of building the school complex’s gym, the Office of Urban Development said when they discovered the man’s remains buried alongside a sword, shield, and lance.

Researchers are now strongly considering that, because the Celtic woman’s remains were found a mere 260 feet from the man’s burial place, they probably knew each other.

Experts have claimed that both figures were buried in the same decade, an assertion that the Office of Urban Development said it was “quite possible.”

The Office of Urban Development said the woman’s necklace was “unique in its form: it is fastened between two brooches (garment clips) and decorated with precious glass and amber beads.”

Though archaeologists previously found evidence that a Celtic settlement dating to the 1st century B.C. lived nearby, researchers are rather confident that the man found in 1903 and the woman found in 2017 belonged to a smaller, separate community that has yet to be entirely discovered.

The department’s 2017 press release stated that researchers would initiate a thorough assessment of the grave and its contents, and by all accounts, they’ve done just that.

Archaeologists salvaged and conserved any relevant items and materials, exhaustively documented their research, and conducted both physical and isotope-based examinations on the woman.

Most impressive to experts was the woman’s necklace, which had rather impressive clasps on either end.

The office said that its concluded assessment “draws a fairly accurate picture of the deceased” and the community in which she lived. The isotope analysis confirmed that she was buried in the same area she grew up in.

The amber beads and brooches belonging to the woman’s decorative necklace being carefully recovered from the soil.

While the Celts are usually thought of as being indigenous to the British Isles, they lived in many different parts of Europe for hundreds of years. Several clans settled in Austria and Switzerland, as well as other regions north of the Roman Empire.

Interestingly enough, from 450 B.C. to 58 B.C. — the exact same timeframe that the Celtic woman and man were buried — a “wine-guzzling, gold-designing, poly/bisexual, naked-warrior-battling culture” called La Tène flourished in Switzerland’s Lac de Neuchâtel region.

That is until Julius Caesar launched an invasion of the area and began his conquest of western and northern Europe. Ultimately, it seems the Celtic woman received a rather kind and caring burial and left Earth with her most treasured belongings by her side.

5,000-Year-Old Copper Ax Found in Switzerland

5,000-Year-Old Copper Ax Found in Switzerland

Apart from a few scratches, the 2.6-inch-long (6.5 centimeters) blade is undamaged.
Apart from a few scratches, the 2.6-inch-long (6.5 centimeters) blade is undamaged.

Archaeologists discovered a copper blade in Switzerland that’s just like the ax Ötzi the famous “Iceman” was carrying when he died. Like Ötzi’s ax, this tool was made with copper that came from 100’s of miles away, in present-day Tuscany in central Italy.

The discovery could shed light on Copper Age connections across Europe. Bad fortune eventually made Ötzi the Iceman more famous. About 5,300 years back, he was shot with an arrow, struck in the head and left to die near a mountain pass high in the Alps.

Until 1991, when hikers near the Italian-Austrian border discovered his body, he was buried in a glacier. Ötzi is Europe’s oldest mummy, and scientists studied almost every aspect of his life and death, from his tattoos and tools to his diet and DNA.

Among the equipment Ötzi carried was an ax of almost pure copper, remarkable because its wooden handle and leather straps were still preserved. This past summer, researchers traced the source of the metal in Ötzi’s ax to southern Tuscany, which came as a surprise to them.

The huge mountains of the Alps were thought to be a “neat cultural barrier” separating the metal trade, the authors of that study wrote in the journal PLOS One; people living around the Alps at that time were believed to have gotten their copperlocally or from the Balkans.

Now, archeologists in Switzerland report finding another blade on the northern foot of the Alps with the same make as Ötzi’s.

A reconstruction of the village Zug-Riedmatt, where the copper ax was found, as it looked more than 5,000 years ago.
A reconstruction of the village Zug-Riedmatt, where the copper ax was found, as it looked more than 5,000 years ago.

The ax was discovered in Zug-Riedmatt, one of the many pile-dwelling villages around the Alps that are famous for their prehistoric wooden houses built on stilts on lake shores and other wetlands.”

It was a very efficient general-purpose ax, especially proper for woodworking,” said Gishan Schaeren, an archaeologist with the Office for Monuments and Archaeology in the Swiss canton (or state) of Zug. But in addition to chopping trees to build stilted houses, people could use this axs as lethal weapons, Schaeren added.

The newfound blade was between 5,300 and 5,100 years old and missing its wooden handle. It was about half the weight of Ötzi’s blade and shorter, but the same shape. By measuring the traces of lead in the blade, Schaeren and his colleagues could link the copper to the same source in southern Tuscany.”

Mainstream research normally does not consider the possibility of intense contacts between south and north in the Alps”

A view of the excavation where the blade was found in 2008.
A view of the excavation where the blade was found in 2008

Schaeren thinks that Copper Age people should be given more credit.” We have to consider that people who traveled in the Alps had a very profound knowledge of the landscape and its conditions due to their experience with hunting, herding and exploring natural resources in these areas,” he said.

Stronger links to southern Europe, Schaeren added, could explain certain styles of rock art, pottery, burial customs and other phenomena seen in the north.”It is one step to a much more connected worldview,” Schaeren said.