R.I.P. Davy Jones

David Thomas "Davy" Jones: December 30, 1945 – February 29, 2012

Sad news to pass along; 60’s music icon Davy Jones of The Monkees passed away earlier today at the age of 66. He died of a massive heart attack in his sleep at his home in Florida. He is survived by four daughters: Talia, Sarah Lee, Jessica and Annabel. RIP Davy!


20 Years Later, We’re Still Learning from Ötzi the Iceman

A quick background before we get started, for those who are unfamiliar with Ötzi:

Ötzi the Iceman is a well-preserved natural mummy of a man who lived about 5,300 years ago. The mummy was found in September 1991 in the Ötztal Alps, on the border between Austria and Italy. The nickname comes from the Ötztal (Ötz valley), the Italian Alps in which he was discovered. He is Europe’s oldest natural human mummy, and has offered an unprecedented view of Chalcolithic Europeans. His body and belongings are displayed in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy.

The remains of Ötzi the Iceman.

After being studied for the last 20 years, we know the following about Ötzi:

  • At the time of his death Ötzi was approximately 1.65 metres (5 ft 5 in) tall, weighed about 50 kilograms (110 lb) and was about 45 years of age.
  • Analysis of Ötzi’s intestinal contents showed two meals (the last one consumed about eight hours before his death), one of chamois meat, the other of red deer and herb bread. Both were eaten with grain as well as roots and fruits. The grain from both meals was a highly processed einkorn wheat bran.
  • Ötzi apparently had whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), an intestinal parasite.
  • Ötzi’s teeth showed considerable internal deterioration from cavities. These oral pathologies may have been brought about by his grain-heavy, high carbohydrate diet.
  • Ötzi had several carbon tattoos including groups of short, parallel, vertical lines to both sides of the lumbar spine, a cruciform mark behind the right knee, and various marks around both ankles.
  • Massive blood loss from a ruptured artery killed Ötzi, probably the result of a fight. This assessment is based on the presence of a flint arrowhead lodged in his back and extensive cuts to his hands.  The arrow struck him in the left shoulder and slit the artery under his collar bone.

A reconstruction shows what Ötzi may have looked like while alive.

Yesterday, a report detailing the sequence of Ötzi’s full genome was published in Nature Communications. It reveals that he had brown eyes, “O” blood type, was lactose intolerant, and was predisposed to heart disease! It also shows him to be the first documented case of infection by a Lyme disease bacterium.

Analysis of series of anomalies in the Ötzi’s nuclear DNA has revealed him to be more closely related to modern inhabitants of Corsica and Sardinia than to populations in the Alps, where he was unearthed. Ötzi’s mitochondrial DNA had already been fully sequenced in 2008.

The Place Where You Are Standing…

A collection of photographs taken at the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp in 1944 and the present day have gone on sale at the museum.  The album presents 31 historical photographs taken by SS men in 1944 depicting the extermination of Jews in the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. They were set in contrast with present-day photographs of the same locations.

The original 1944 album is known nowadays as “The Auschwitz Album” or “Lili Jacob Album”. Almost as many as 200 photographs taken by SS men depict the arrival of a transport of Hungarian Jews at the Auschwitz II-Birkenau camp. The pictures lay bare almost every stage of the extermination: departure from the train, formation of columns, selection, march to the gas chambers, waiting to enter the undressing room, looting of property as well as the very first moments of those who were selected us fit to work during the selection and registered in the camp. The only stage the German author failed to record is the killing of people.

Photographer Paweł Sawicki has since gone back and identified the areas of the camp in those Nazi photos, capturing them as they appear in modern times. The result is a stark reminder of the millions who lost their lives in a camp taht is now in ruins.

“However, the project was not about creating faithful replicas of the historical photographs. It was rather about reminding the viewer in a profound manner about all that took place here, in this very place.” – Paweł Sawicki

The album Auschwitz-Birkenau. The Place Where You Are Standing… has been published in Polish and English language versions. It is available in the museum bookshop as well as through the online store of the Auschwitz Memorial.