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06/20/2007

A Really Cold Case

I’m exhausted from just watching those golfers struggle in the
horrendous rough at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Having played
one Open course (Baltusrol) shortly after an Open, I can also
appreciate the problems putting on Open greens – they were like
glass! The experience of watching the final round of the Open
on Sunday was enhanced by the presence of our Editor, Brian
Trumbore, and our Lamb creator, Harry Trumbore, both of
whom share a close kinship with yours truly.

Earlier, on Sunday morning, I watched the TV program Sunday
Morning with Charles Osgood. One of the main segments had to
do with sugar. It was truly frightening to hear that we Americans
on average consume the equivalent of roughly two and a half
pounds of sugar a week! One of the culprits is high fructose corn
syrup, about which I wrote some years ago. While watching the
Open, Brian had his usual Coors Lite while Harry recalled that
there was a can of Oranjeboom premium lager in the back of our
refrigerator. He was somewhat distressed to find that he had
inadvertently opened a similar size can of Arizona Iced Tea.

Having already had my Scotch and orange juice, a drink some
scoff at, I graciously said I would have the tea. Unfortunately, I
looked at the table of contents and was shocked to find that (a)
the can was rated to contain about three servings and (b) there
were 24 grams of sugar, as high fructose corn syrup, per serving.
On the Sunday Morning segment I had learned that 4 grams of
sugar equals one teaspoon. This translates into 6 teaspoons per
serving or 18 teaspoons per can! I normally would have drunk
the whole can but couldn’t handle it knowing there was that
much sugar. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic in this
country!

The worries about what we put into our digestive tracts were not
the only newsworthy dietary subjects recently. Scientists have
been busy figuring out the last food intake by the famed
“Iceman”. We’ve written before (11/13/2003) about Oetzi (Otzi
with umlaut over the O), the 5200-5300-year-old fellow found
frozen and remarkably well preserved in the Alps back in 1991.
At the time of my column, the mummy had been probed with all
manner of instruments and contents of his intestines had been
analyzed. The results showed that Oetzi hadn’t strayed far from
his roots in his travels and that he had been done in with an
arrow that lodged near his left shoulder.

A brief article in this year’s June 1 issue of Science and an
extensive article by Stephen Hall in the July National Geographic
describe more recent work, notably by Klaus Oeggl and his team
at the University of Innsbruck and by Paul Gostner, Egarter Vigl,
Patrizia Pernter and Frank Ruhli at the Central Hospital in
Bolzano. Talk about cold cases – they’ve managed to construct a
feasible account of the last day and a half of the Iceman’s life.

In 2001, Gostner had taken a portable X-ray unit to the museum
in Bolzano where the Iceman is housed under refrigeration. It
was then that the stone arrowhead was discovered, making this a
murder case. More recently, in 2005, the hospital obtained an
advanced multi-slice CT scan machine. The Iceman was scooted
by ambulance and a police escort for the 10-minute ride from the
museum to the hospital for a quick series of scans. He was then
quickly whisked back to his refrigerated residence in the museum
before he could thaw out.

Earlier, the proposed scenario for Iceman’s last hours was that,
since he had also suffered a hand wound, he had dragged himself
up the mountain after a battle of some sort. The new CT scan
showed, however, that the arrow had torn a gash in the left
subclavian artery, the main artery carrying blood to the left arm.
This wound is of a type that would have caused massive bleeding
and a quick demise. More careful examination of the hand
wound showed it had already begun to recover and was probably
a day or more old when the arrow did its dirty work. The
freezing weather and the glacial water and ice would act to
preserve Iceman for lo these five millennia.

Whoever it was who shot the arrow into his back almost certainly
is the one who removed the shaft. Speculation is that this was
not just a random killing but one that may have had political
overtones. The killer did not take any of the artifacts found with
the Iceman, notably a distinct copper-bladed ax that must have
had value. Now the postulated scenario is that the Iceman was a
person of significance in his village, perhaps a leader of some
sort. The healing hand injury indicated a possible confrontation.
It appears that the Iceman was leaving the scene of the
confrontation when his killer came up from behind and loosed
the fateful arrow. If the killer didn’t want to be identified, it
makes sense that he would pull out the shaft of the arrow to
avoid suspicion. Who knows, they may have hade the Stone Age
equivalent of CSI and the unique characteristics of arrow shafts’
makers could have led to the killer. The killer also would not
have wanted to be found with such a distinct ax if it were readily
associated with the Iceman.

We also know that in the 33 hours prior to his death the Iceman
had come down from the mountain, possibly to his village, and
then started up the mountain when he was killed. How do we
know this? Oeggl and his colleagues looked at the contents of
the Iceman’s intestine from three different locations. There is a
tree in the higher elevations known as the hop hornbeam that
blooms with yellow flowers in the late spring or early summer
and the pollen fills the air. The Iceman’s lower intestine showed
that he had eaten food containing these pollen grains. Then he
traveled down to a lower altitude (the village?) as evidenced by
pollen from trees that grew in the lower valley farther up in the
intestine. Farther up in the intestine hop hornbeam pollen
appears again, indicating he had eaten his last meal going back
up the mountain.

The postulated scenario that he had some sort of altercation prior
to his murder is substantiated by the fact that he headed back up
the mountain with less than full armament. His quiver contained
arrows that were not finished and he carried a stalk of yew that
was probably destined to be shaped and strung into a longbow. It
was as though he had used up his weapons in a fight of some sort
or perhaps had to flee leaving his old weapons behind. Iceman
may have hoped to regroup and replenish his weapons when he
was brought down by his killer.

Stay tuned – with the remarkable sleuthing that’s been going on,
I almost wouldn’t be surprised if the scientists end up naming the
killer!

Allen F. Bortrum



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-06/20/2007-      
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Dr. Bortrum

06/20/2007

A Really Cold Case

I’m exhausted from just watching those golfers struggle in the
horrendous rough at the U.S. Open at Oakmont. Having played
one Open course (Baltusrol) shortly after an Open, I can also
appreciate the problems putting on Open greens – they were like
glass! The experience of watching the final round of the Open
on Sunday was enhanced by the presence of our Editor, Brian
Trumbore, and our Lamb creator, Harry Trumbore, both of
whom share a close kinship with yours truly.

Earlier, on Sunday morning, I watched the TV program Sunday
Morning with Charles Osgood. One of the main segments had to
do with sugar. It was truly frightening to hear that we Americans
on average consume the equivalent of roughly two and a half
pounds of sugar a week! One of the culprits is high fructose corn
syrup, about which I wrote some years ago. While watching the
Open, Brian had his usual Coors Lite while Harry recalled that
there was a can of Oranjeboom premium lager in the back of our
refrigerator. He was somewhat distressed to find that he had
inadvertently opened a similar size can of Arizona Iced Tea.

Having already had my Scotch and orange juice, a drink some
scoff at, I graciously said I would have the tea. Unfortunately, I
looked at the table of contents and was shocked to find that (a)
the can was rated to contain about three servings and (b) there
were 24 grams of sugar, as high fructose corn syrup, per serving.
On the Sunday Morning segment I had learned that 4 grams of
sugar equals one teaspoon. This translates into 6 teaspoons per
serving or 18 teaspoons per can! I normally would have drunk
the whole can but couldn’t handle it knowing there was that
much sugar. No wonder we have an obesity epidemic in this
country!

The worries about what we put into our digestive tracts were not
the only newsworthy dietary subjects recently. Scientists have
been busy figuring out the last food intake by the famed
“Iceman”. We’ve written before (11/13/2003) about Oetzi (Otzi
with umlaut over the O), the 5200-5300-year-old fellow found
frozen and remarkably well preserved in the Alps back in 1991.
At the time of my column, the mummy had been probed with all
manner of instruments and contents of his intestines had been
analyzed. The results showed that Oetzi hadn’t strayed far from
his roots in his travels and that he had been done in with an
arrow that lodged near his left shoulder.

A brief article in this year’s June 1 issue of Science and an
extensive article by Stephen Hall in the July National Geographic
describe more recent work, notably by Klaus Oeggl and his team
at the University of Innsbruck and by Paul Gostner, Egarter Vigl,
Patrizia Pernter and Frank Ruhli at the Central Hospital in
Bolzano. Talk about cold cases – they’ve managed to construct a
feasible account of the last day and a half of the Iceman’s life.

In 2001, Gostner had taken a portable X-ray unit to the museum
in Bolzano where the Iceman is housed under refrigeration. It
was then that the stone arrowhead was discovered, making this a
murder case. More recently, in 2005, the hospital obtained an
advanced multi-slice CT scan machine. The Iceman was scooted
by ambulance and a police escort for the 10-minute ride from the
museum to the hospital for a quick series of scans. He was then
quickly whisked back to his refrigerated residence in the museum
before he could thaw out.

Earlier, the proposed scenario for Iceman’s last hours was that,
since he had also suffered a hand wound, he had dragged himself
up the mountain after a battle of some sort. The new CT scan
showed, however, that the arrow had torn a gash in the left
subclavian artery, the main artery carrying blood to the left arm.
This wound is of a type that would have caused massive bleeding
and a quick demise. More careful examination of the hand
wound showed it had already begun to recover and was probably
a day or more old when the arrow did its dirty work. The
freezing weather and the glacial water and ice would act to
preserve Iceman for lo these five millennia.

Whoever it was who shot the arrow into his back almost certainly
is the one who removed the shaft. Speculation is that this was
not just a random killing but one that may have had political
overtones. The killer did not take any of the artifacts found with
the Iceman, notably a distinct copper-bladed ax that must have
had value. Now the postulated scenario is that the Iceman was a
person of significance in his village, perhaps a leader of some
sort. The healing hand injury indicated a possible confrontation.
It appears that the Iceman was leaving the scene of the
confrontation when his killer came up from behind and loosed
the fateful arrow. If the killer didn’t want to be identified, it
makes sense that he would pull out the shaft of the arrow to
avoid suspicion. Who knows, they may have hade the Stone Age
equivalent of CSI and the unique characteristics of arrow shafts’
makers could have led to the killer. The killer also would not
have wanted to be found with such a distinct ax if it were readily
associated with the Iceman.

We also know that in the 33 hours prior to his death the Iceman
had come down from the mountain, possibly to his village, and
then started up the mountain when he was killed. How do we
know this? Oeggl and his colleagues looked at the contents of
the Iceman’s intestine from three different locations. There is a
tree in the higher elevations known as the hop hornbeam that
blooms with yellow flowers in the late spring or early summer
and the pollen fills the air. The Iceman’s lower intestine showed
that he had eaten food containing these pollen grains. Then he
traveled down to a lower altitude (the village?) as evidenced by
pollen from trees that grew in the lower valley farther up in the
intestine. Farther up in the intestine hop hornbeam pollen
appears again, indicating he had eaten his last meal going back
up the mountain.

The postulated scenario that he had some sort of altercation prior
to his murder is substantiated by the fact that he headed back up
the mountain with less than full armament. His quiver contained
arrows that were not finished and he carried a stalk of yew that
was probably destined to be shaped and strung into a longbow. It
was as though he had used up his weapons in a fight of some sort
or perhaps had to flee leaving his old weapons behind. Iceman
may have hoped to regroup and replenish his weapons when he
was brought down by his killer.

Stay tuned – with the remarkable sleuthing that’s been going on,
I almost wouldn’t be surprised if the scientists end up naming the
killer!

Allen F. Bortrum