25: Number of years ago that hikers discovered the Iceman in the Alps

Paul HANNY/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images


CCSS: 6.RP.A.3.D, 6.EE.B.6, 7.RP.A.2.C, MP2, MP5

TEKS: 6.4H, 7.4B, 7.4E


Since 1991, scientists have been discovering the secrets of this 5,300-year-old mummy

September 19, 1991, was a sunny day in the Italian Alps. As two hikers returned to their camp, they made a remarkable discovery: a mummy sticking out of the ice! It had been preserved in the snow for 5,300 years. This month marks the 25th anniversary of the find.

Nicknamed Ötzi after the region in which he was found, the Iceman is like no other mummy, says Albert Zink. He’s the head of the EURAC-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Italy. For example, Ötzi is the only mummy ever found in the Alps. He’s also about 2,000 years older than Egyptian royal mummies like King Tutankhamen.

Ötzi’s burial in snow and ice shortly after his death kept his body from decaying and his tissues from fully drying out. That means he’s one of the best-preserved mummies ever found. This has allowed scientists to piece together a thorough story of the Iceman’s life and death. From his DNA, they found that he had brown eyes and brown hair. He was about 46 years old when he died—pretty old for humans living at that time. Ötzi also had a lot of gear that showed he was a hunter (see "Ötzi’s Tools").

However, the cause of Ötzi’s death remained a mystery for a decade. But in 2001, scientists found an arrowhead buried deep in his shoulder. It had struck a major blood vessel, so Ötzi likely bled to death in minutes, says Zink.

Today, Ötzi’s body is on display in a cooling chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy. But now people in the U.S. and Canada will be able to get a look at the Iceman without hopping a flight to Italy. Artists have made three life-sized replicas of Ötzi. One is already on display in Cold Spring Harbor, New York. Another is going on tour across North America in 2017.

“With these copies, more people can get closer to the mummy to see him on their own,” says Zink. “These are things you can’t compare to a picture.”

Use this information to convert between metric and customary units. Round all answers to the nearest hundredth.

A. Scientists think Ötzi weighed 50,000 grams when he was alive. How heavy was he in kilograms?

B. What was Ötzi’s weight in pounds?

The Iceman’s body was discovered in the Alps only 92.56 meters from the border between the countries of Italy and Austria. How many feet is that?

When he was alive, the Iceman stood at a height of 159 centimeters. Who’s taller, the Iceman or someone who is 6 feet tall? By how many inches?  

The Iceman carried an ax with a copper blade that weighs 174,210 milligrams. How much does it weigh in ounces?

One of the Iceman replicas is on display in New York at Cold Spring Harbor Lab’s DNA Learning Center. It’s 6,507,000 meters from there to the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy, where the actual mummy is. How far is that in miles?

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