Preserved bodies are crucial to historians in unravelling information on past civilisations. The nature of the bodies and the conclusions that can be drawn allow a scientific outlook on their lives. The evidence, found with the body, including weaponry and equipment allow opportunity to investigate the technology of past civilisations. The nature of the body furthermore reveal details on status, appearance and occupation, giving modern historians insight to the general day-to-day lives and the structure of past civilisations. From this, it can be determined that preserved bodies play an essential role in learning about the past.
The various items that are found with bodies reveal the technology available at the time and subsequently the estimated time of which the person lived. The 5000 year old preserved body of Otzi, found in the Italian Alps, was found with various pieces of weaponry; a copper axe, flint dagger, a bow and arrows. These pieces of equipment gave modern historians a standpoint to the technological advancements of past civilisations. The copper axe head indicates that ancient civilisations of Otzi’s time had access to copper tools and weapons. The evidence of copper along with DNA testing provided further evidence that Otzi lived during the Copper Age, from 3500 to 2300 BC. In addition to this, at the time, Otzi’s axe would have been an invaluable possession as it was important as both a tool and a status symbol for the owner. This implies that Otzi was of high status in society. Preserved bodies are crucial to historians in unravelling the accessibility of technology at certain times in the past and subsequently the progress of which mankind has been developing, allowing a greater understanding of the lifestyles of past civilisations.
In addition to this, Otzi’s clothing and weaponry reveals his possible occupation. Modern historians have collaborated with scientists to analyse hair samples of Otzi that were found on his coat, leggings and shoes through mass spectrometry. Their results have shown that Otzi’s coat and leggings were made from sheep’s fur and his shoes were from migrating cattle’s skin. These cattle were usually cared for by herdsmen in the region of which Otzi was discovered, suggesting that Otzi may have been a herdsman. Historians have deducted from this that Otzi may have died on the job. However experiments with reconstructed bows of the same type Otzi carried showed that animals could be easily killed with significant accuracy from a distance of 30 to 50 metres. This suggested that Otzi could have possibly been a hunter or even some sort of warrior. The flint that was found on the dagger was traced back to quarries in the Lessini Mountains, north of Verona. This provides evidence for Otzi’s travel and suggests that he may have been nomadic. Whether Otzi was a herdsman, a hunter or a warrior, his possible occupations provide an insight to the structure and lifestyles of past civilisations.
Examinations of Otzi’s body reveal his cause death and give historians an insight to the structure of society in the past. The hand wound indicated that the lacerations must have been survived for at least several days. In addition, examination of the back wound found that the wound would have been survived for less than a few hours. This implies that the Iceman was subject to two separate attacks in the last few days of his life. These wounds suggest that he was murdered. This theory was further supported by CT scans and x-rays taken on Otzi’s shoulder bones and ribs. The results showed an arrowhead wedged in his shoulder blade. Scientists recognised that the arrowhead penetrated several blood vessels and was consequently, the fatal wound that killed Otzi. Further examination of Otzi’s weapons found 4 different strands of DNA, from four different individuals. This evidence clearly indicates that Otzi was the victim of several attacks, possibly from conflict between tribes which resulted in his untimely death. The evidence of murder and conflict so early in history creates a better image of the structure of society in history and thus allows a better understanding of past civilisations.
In addition to Otzi, the 2300 year old preserved body that was found in Ireland, dubbed Clonycavan Man, reveals much about status in past civilisations. Clonycavan Man’s status was apparent in his peculiar Mohawk hairstyle. It is believed that this Mohawk hairstyle was intended to make him look taller and most likely stronger or of higher status. The hair was held together with the help of a hair gel that with chemical analysis was identified to be a mixture of plant oil and pine resin. These ingredients were further traced back to a species of tree commonly found in the south-western region of France and northern Spain. The presence of this most likely foreign gel suggests that Clonycavan Man was most likely of high status and lived a lavish lifestyle. Furthermore, the gel also suggests either the existence of international trade and of Clonycavan Man’s cross migration. These conclusions provide historians with a greater understanding of, the groups in society and how they were differentiated along with the presence of a foreign trade industry. This provides historians a greater understanding of past civilisations
In addition to this, the nature of Clonycavan Man’s body also reveals the circumstances surrounding his death. A deep wound on the top of his head that shattered his skulls was found by scientists through forensic examination. This wound resulted in parts of his brain being found on the remnants of his skull. This fatal wound would have been caused by several blows by a sharp weapon such as an axe. Further wounds most likely created by the same weapon were found on the bridge of CLonycavan Man’s nose to below his right eye. It is evident that a deep axe wound was also delivered to his chest and he was further disembowelled. It is clear that the 2300 year old persevered body died an extremely violent death, quite possibly some sort of sacrificial ritual. This is clear from the extremes that were taken to kill the man and the evidence in history of selective sacrifices; many sacrifices were honoured to be sacrificed and subjects of higher status were seen as more ‘valuable’ sacrifices. From this it can be concluded that the society that Clonycavan Man once lived in contained religious extremists or had generally extreme religions. This provides a greater insight to the structure and lifestyles of past civilisations.
From this, it can be determined that preserved bodies are crucial to historians in unravelling information on past civilisations. A greater understanding of the past is important because of the conclusions that can be drawn from them. Both Otzi the Iceman and Clonycavan Man have significantly contributed to modern society’s understanding of the past, allowing a deeper understanding of the human race itself.