Year 7 Investigating the ancient past Otzi the iceman

Year 7 – Investigating the Ancient Past – OTZI Source:

Investigating the story of Otzi the Iceman has been one of my most enjoyable teaching and learning experiences.  I love how the theories surrounding his death have changed over the past twenty years owing to new technologies, discoveries etc. and each time we are convinced by the new theory, that it is “the truth” and is definitive, we have it challenged by new evidence and theories a year or two later.  The mystery of Otzi is very suited to the following aspects of the Year 7 Australian Curriculum

Investigating the ancient past

  • How historians and archaeologists investigate history, including excavation and archival research (ACDSEH001)
  • The range of sources that can be used in an historical investigation, including archaeological and written sources (ACDSEH029)
  • The methods and sources used to investigate at least ONE historical controversy or mystery that has challenged historians or archaeologists, such as in the analysis of unidentified human remains (ACDSEH030)

The content provides opportunities to develop historical understanding through key concepts, including evidence, perspectives, and contestability.

The point of this research guide is to show how interpretations/versions of History change based on available evidence.


Give students the basics – Otzi the name given to an ice mummy who lived 5,300 years ago and was found in the Italian Alps in 1991.  There are various theories that try to account for Otzi’s life and death.  We are going to investigate the mystery surrounding Otzi

Show video The Iceman Murder– BBC, 2005, 51 minutes (available from Clasroom Video)

I like this film because it covers three theories and convinces the students about each.  Every time they think one is true they then get evidence to change their mind and a new theory. It also has some dramatic re-creation which helps to engage students rather than just being scientists and archaeologists talking. You can locate this film through Google Play or YouTube. Also, it has been on TV in Australia (on both pay and free to air) and so should be available on Clickview exchange. Classroom Video supply a good question sheet.  Note I am not providing links to the uploaded versions of this film as they breach copyright.

Next, I would present the students with some news articles.  There seems to be some news about Otzi every six months. For example, in May 2012 The Guardian reported that scientist had taken a blood sample from Otzi and it revealed he died within 30minutes of being stabbed.

However, around the same time, seemingly using the same science report, Cosmos Magazine reported that he didn’t die from being wounded by the arrow head

Cosmos Magazine also presented a feature on Otzi in 2010

So students should be VERY confused by now and ready to investigate theories.

Further Information

More videos

PBS NOVA Iceman Murder Mystery (2011) and its supporting website

Classic discovery (assignment discovery)

In Youtube you will find many videos such as

  • Death of the Iceman – BBC Horizon
  • “Otzi the Iceman” 1993 Horizon documentary on BBC 2  This would be good as by being dated it  helps explain how theories change over time.

Best Sites

Otzi has his own museum, website, YouTube channel and a Facebook page – find all details through There is also a kids page This site is very cool.  The Iceman Photo Scan is an innovative project which records the complete photographic documentation of the body of the Iceman mummy. Thanks to 12 differing angle-shots it is possible to see the whole body of the mummy, even in 3D!!!

Other useful links The accompanying website for last year’s iceman video

Check out what Encyclopaedia Britannica and World Book – use Iceman as keyword. World book also has magazine articles linked to the iceman entry I don’t like the ads in this website but appreciate the author needs to gain revenue from his site.  It doesn’t affect the quality of the information the theories are presented logically This Otzi webquest has students considering what to do with the remains of Otzi (how should they be treated).  I like how it links to the treatment of Indigenous Australians. A worksheet using the Otzi museum as a source Another magazine article about Otzi. It is 2003, so it is dated but the style of writing may help create more mystery! and  are from Western University Canada.  Very useful PP – recommended by a viewer of the site.  It seems they study Otzi in Science!






  1. Pingback: New guide – Otzi « Teacher Librarian Help - June 25, 2012

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