The iceman: discovery and imaging

Radiology. 2003 Mar;226(3):614-29. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2263020338. Epub 2003 Jan 24.


The anatomic features of a 5,300-year-old mummy, the iceman, were documented with conventional radiographic, portable computed radiographic, and conventional and spiral computed tomographic images obtained between September 1991 and June 2001. A team of scientists and radiologists from Austria, Italy, and the United States supervised the examinations and interpreted the images. The images demonstrated excellent preservation of the mineralized skeleton with profound dehydration of the soft tissues. The skeleton exhibited several types of trauma, including (a) healed rib fractures, (b) hairline skull fractures and a compression deformity of the thorax, probably acquired while encased in the glacier, and (c) damage acquired during the effort to recover the corpse. Skeletal variants were present, as was evidence of degenerative arthritis, frostbite, vascular calcification, and adaptation to cultural and geographic influences. In terms of anatomy and apparent health-related conditions, the iceman was very similar to modern humans. An arrowhead lodged between the rib cage and the left scapula was the probable cause of the iceman's death. Study of the images also provided insight regarding postmortem processes that led to the iceman's mummification.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthropology, Physical
  • Freezing
  • Hominidae / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Italy
  • Mummies / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*