Iceman: Uncovering the Life and Times of a Prehistoric Man Found in an Alpine Glacier

Brenda Fowler, Author Random House (NY) $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-679-43167-1
In September 1991, hikers in the Alps discovered a well-preserved frozen corpse; nearby lay a stone ax and swatches of leather and fur. The man turned out to have died in the early Bronze Age, making him an incalculable treasure for students of early human beings. Fowler, who has covered Central Europe for the New York Times, offers a brisk and easy-to-follow narrative, first of the great discovery, then of the personal and political struggles for control of the frozen body, which researchers eventually nicknamed tzi. Her tight and compelling account emphasizes the late-20th century people who acted, investigated and argued the science and law surrounding the man from the past. Fowler's journalistic experience serves her well as she introduces each of the characters: local archeologist Konrad Spindler, who first pronounced the corpse 4,000 years old; Reinhold Messner, ""the best [mountain] climber who had ever lived""; museum curator Markus Egg; botanist Sigmar Bortenschlager (""a feisty strawberry blond""); and a few dozen others. Each gossipy controversy begot others; each scientific answer led to new questions. Should tzi be used to help the local economy, displaying him for tourists? Yes, said the government; no, cried the local priest. The scientists were split on the issue. Was tzi missing his genitalia? No (though they had ""dried up like a leaf""); so how did the story that he had been castrated come to be circulated so widely? Archeological and present-day whodunits proceed in alternating steps throughout Fowler's attentive narrative; readers with any interest in early humans, in the politics of scientific discovery or in this region of Europe will want to dig in. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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FORMATS
Paperback - 312 pages - 978-0-226-25823-2
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-330-48177-9
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