PBS’ New “Iceman” Doc Is An Interesting New Look At Otzi

Courtesy:  PBS/PBS DIstribution

Courtesy: PBS/PBS DIstribution

Everybody loves a good mystery every now and then, right?  Right.  Why else would the adventures of Sherlock Holmes be so popular today?  Why else would there be so many crime dramas on television and so many news magazine programs whose content is generally centered on true crime?  For all of the entertainment that those noted outlets offer in regards to their mysteries, there is a lot of redundancy from fiction to non across the ages and outlets.  For those looking for something new and original PBS and Public Media Distribution have quite the alternative in the form of NOVA: Iceman Reborn.  This program follows researchers as they examine the famed mummy, dubbed Otzi, and find out who he was, how he died, and most importantly where he was from.  It also follows one man’s attempts to re-create the eons-old figure in hopes of presenting him to the world.  It is not the first time that an episode of NOVA has focused on Otzi.  In 2012, NOVA featured another episode about Otzi titled Iceman Murder Mystery that in fact is very similar to this program and less on his death.  Keeping this in mind, this latest story about Otzi the “iceman” mummy is a good new installment for those that have not see the previous program about Otzi.    There is plenty to appreciate in this semi-new episode of NOVA beginning with its noted story.  It is a story that not only mystery lovers will enjoy but students of the biological (and genealogical) sciences will enjoy.  The information revealed in the program is just as important to note as the mystery at the center of the story.  Last but hardly least of note in the program’s presentation is its writing.  The writing completes the program’s presentation, bringing everything full circle.  In the end, all three noted elements come together to make NOVA: Iceman Reborn a real life story that every mystery lover will love as much as any lover of science.

NOVA: Iceman Reborn is a real life story that every mystery lover will love as much as any lover of the biological and genealogical sciences.  That is due in part to the story that is presented at the heart of the program.  The story in question is that of researchers’ attempts to unravel the mystery of the famed mummy “Otzi.”  The story begins with the discovery of the 5,000 year-old mummy some 25 years ago in the snow-covered mountains of Europe.  It then fast forwards to today, with researchers examining Otzi’s bodies, and revealing stunning new discoveries.  The discoveries include that of his potential cause of death (which will be discussed later), what he ate during in his final hours, the ailments from which he suffered, and ultimately the surprising revelation of his possible roots and descendants among so much more.  Along the way, audiences also watch as model expert Gary Staab as he attempts to re-create Otzi in plastic form right down to his skin tone in his mummified state.  Through it all, some rather interesting revelations are made.  Ironically enough it leaves almost as much mystery as it solves such as why, if Otzi was a farmer, did he have a full quiver of arrows and longbow, and ax, and why he was murdered.  Murdered?  That’s right.  As audiences learn in this episode of NOVA, researchers discovered in 2001 part of an arrow-head lodged in Otzi, leading to the belief that he was indeed murdered.  Of course this aspect is never fully addressed.  One can only hope that a future episode of NOVA will examine this element of Otzi’s story.  Regardless, the story of who Otzi was and how he lived is its own interesting story that, again, lovers of mysteries and science alike will enjoy.

The story at the center of NOVA: Iceman Reborn is in itself one that lovers of mysteries and science alike will enjoy.  That is because it is a story that, though it answers a number of questions about the famed mummy dubbed Otzi, also leaves plenty of mystery in the end; mystery that will hopefully be addressed in a future episode of NOVA.  Audiences will appreciate the mystery that is unraveled thanks to the information that is revealed over the course of the program’s roughly hour-long run time.  The most notable of the revelations that are made is that of Otzi’s cause of death.  It is revealed in the program that Otzi was more than likely murdered.  That is inferred thanks to the discovery, in 2001, of a fragment of an arrow lodged inside Otzi.  Its location and point of entry reveals that the only way that it could have gotten there was by being fired from another person’s bow.  It’s just one of the interesting pieces of information revealed throughout the program.  Along with this shocking discovery, audiences also learn that Otzi wasn’t in the best of health when he died.  He suffered from a variant of arthritis and apparently also had lyme disease.  Considering Otzi’s age, this discovery makes his the oldest case of lyme disease known yet to mankind.  Also revealed is that Otzi had a genetic predisposition toward heart troubles.  Just as shocking is the revelation of his possible descendants’ whereabouts.  Through explanation of genetics it is revealed that his descendants are living on the island of Sardinia.  Considering the history of farmers and hunter gatherers in Europe at the time of Otzi’s life (and the history of the region since), this is a truly shocking revelation.  That is especially the case being that it sounds like Otzi was likely a nomadic farmer.  This leads to one of the mysteries that is not solved in this episode of NOVA—if he was nomadic, and a farmer, then why was he found with a longbow, arrows, and even a stone ax and knife?  The only assumption that can be made without further research is that he used them for survival (I.E. hunting and self-defense).  Even that goes against what is known about farmers—that farmers were far less nomadic than hunter gatherers.  Again, it leaves audiences with just as much mystery as is resolved here.  Why was he seemingly nomadic if he was a farmer?  What’s more, if he was found in the snow-covered mountains of Europe, how could it be that his descendants are on an island off of Italy’s west coast?  Considering all of the information that is revealed here, the mysteries that are unraveled about Otzi, and those that are spawned by those same revelations, the story here and its information gives audiences plenty of reason to watch this episode of NOVA.  They are not the only elements that make this presentation worth the watch.  The program’s editing rounds out its presentation.  It brings everything full circles and completes the program’s presentation.

Both the story at the center of NOVA: Iceman Reborn and the information presented in the story are key elements to the program.  That is because they not only unravel some mysteries but also create quite a bit of discussion over other equally intriguing mysteries.  While both elements give lovers of mysteries and science alike plenty to appreciate here, they are not the program’s only key elements.  The program’s writing is just as notable as its story and revelations.  That is because the writing ensures viewers’ maintained engagement just as much as the program’s overall content.  Audiences will note in watching the program closely the transitions between the central story of Otzi’s identity and history and that of Staab’s efforts to bring Otzi’s twin to the world.  The program moves smoothly between each subject, seamlessly tying each part of the episode’s presentation together.  The end result is a presentation that never leaves audiences feeling confused or even left behind.  As a matter of fact it leaves audiences wanting to know more about Otzi, his life, and his fate.  Considering this, it shows why the program’s general writing is so vital to its overall presentation.  It is just as important as the story at the center of the episode, its revelations, and the questions that it leaves.  That is not to say that the episode’s story, its revelations, and leftover questions are not important to its presentation.  In fact, they work in direct partnership with the writing to make this program one that, again, lovers of mysteries and science alike will appreciate.  It is available now on DVD and can be ordered direct via PBS’ online store.  More information on this and other episodes of NOVA is available online now at:



Website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NOVAonline

Twitter: http://twitter.com/novapbs



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