Strategy games on life and death at the Copper age

A 5,000 year old murder mystery

As a bonus, I solve a five-thousand-year-old murder mystery in a way that would have been accepted at the time when forensics was a virtually non-existent tool. At least in the Middle Ages, the authorities had to rely on, or chose to rely on, confessions through torture methods in the absence of evidence. If your name was Cecil and you had the job as head of the intelligence service for the Crown and Elizabeth the I in service of England at the 16th century and you had earned your post through meritorious cognitive talents and handsteady actions, you could be more cunning than that and trick the Catholic stooges out of information using the crown’s aides who pretended to be kinsmen of Catholicism.

There are four main theories as to why ”Ötzi”, the Austrian discovered ice man who was found in the Alps in the 1990s, was murdered 5000 years ago in the “copper age”. The copper age marks the transition between the stone age and the bronze age. Ötzi was naturally mummified centuries before the first blue-blooded Egyptian was mummified. I believe in the theory that Ötzi had a rival in his own relatively large village, but I think it is possible to penetrate into the murder plot and speculate further on the methods of the murder, and on how the plot turned out. Ötzi was a distinguished person in his clan, which is a known fact because he died with an exclusive copper ax in his possession. The fact that the ax was not stolen indicates that it was one of his own who murdered him.

With a little help from modern science, if I have not proved it so in any case, I have probated a certain causal course of events that preceded and led to a regal murder, and I have shed light on the power positioning that probably followed on the regal murder. All the indicators point in the same direction. It was probably an internal power struggle over the chief position, between two slightly older antagonists in what is today’s Italy.

The author


The mummified murdered ice man ”Ötzi” was discovered on the Austrian side of the Alps, lying with his head towards the mountain ridge another 5000 years after the murder. There is a church stone in Austria, which describes the murder in detail. A church stone which, incidentally, has not always been a church stone, since Christianity did not exist 5000 years ago. Viking Age run stones were used in similar ways in Swedish churches, as paving, so it was common to do so after the Viking Age in Sweden, and one can assume that it was just as common in Austria if we presume that there were engraved pagan stones available.


a) Ötzi was found on the Austrian side of the Alps lying on a mountain top with his head towards the mountain ridge.
b) Ötzi was shot with an arrow in the back wryly upwards from below and the arrow had cut an artery after which Ötzi bled to death.
c) The distance between the archer who killed Ötzi and Ötzi himself was relatively large, the arrow did not hit his body with full force but stopped a bit from the heart.
d) The arrow was pulled out of the body and there was no trace of it when they found the body, but the tip of the arrow remained inside Ötzi’s body.
e) Several of Ötzi’s arrows from his arrow quiver had been broken off at the site.
f) When they found Ötzi’s body in the 1990s, they discovered an exclusive copper ax lying five meters away from the body, which could only have belonged to an important man during the Copper Age.
g) Ötzi was murdered 5000 years ago during the short copper age in “Italy”.
h) The investigated stomach contents in Ötzi indicate that Ötzi came wandering from the “Italian” side walking to the Austrian side. It is also known because of the stomach contents that Ötzi climbed the mountain in the springtime.
i) Ötzi had wounds on his body from a fight a few days earlier.
j) Metal ore was mined at the Austrian side of Inndalen in the era.
k) There is an engraved pagan stone that later has been used as building material in an Austrian church, which describes the murder in detail.

Hypotheses A, B, C, D (and E)

A) One of the theories is that Ötzi was ritually murdered in the mountains.

What contradicts this theory is that Ötzi had wounds to the body, which had begun to heal, from a battle a few days earlier. And also the fact that Ötzi was on one of the mountain ridges when he was murdered, and consequently was in the only place in the mountains where you could comfortably lie and wait and look for him without risk of detection a number of people, indicates that it was deliberate murder, not ritual murder. Another thing that struck me was that a ritual murder would hardly have been committed on an alpine peak where no one was there to witness it. I think we can disregard the theory that it was a ritual murder, for a number of reasons, as most scientists also believe.

B) A second theory is that Ötzi was murdered by a rival clan in another community. [I contextually distinguish between rival clans in other communities and rival family constellations in their own village.]

I do not believe this either that a clan on Ötzi’s side of the Alps or the opposite side of the Alps were the perpetrators. If, for example, we assume that the rival clan lived on the opposite side of the Alps, then it would seem strange that such a clan, on the other side of the Alps, would first have learned that the man who was obviously their enemy – Ötzi – planned to come to their side and in addition know that he would travel alone, and then climb the Alps and ambush the (supposedly) alone Ötzi somewhere at the border of Ötzi’s territory. Now, Ötzi may have been beaten in the diametrically opposed clan area in “Austria” or “Italy”, of course, and in that case, theory B is not impossible. I will hereafter refer to Austria and Italy when I speak of “border states” or geographical division with the mountains as dividers. But as you will see if you read on, I think that Ötzi came from Italy because the probable approach (at least I would have ambushed him that way) at the actual murder a short time after Ötzi got wounded, logically imply that Ötzi crossed the mountain ridge from the Italian side.

He was found on the Austrian side and must therefore have been beaten in Italy sometime before the murder of him, and probably by a bellicose party of Ötzi’s own “clan members” from his own place of residence, if my theory of the approach for the murder itself is true. Continue reading.

If the murderers came from a rival clan in another community from the same side of the mountains as Ötzi, then they would have taken Ötzi’s copper ax after the murder. Likewise, they would have taken the copper ax if they came from a rival clan from across the mountains.

C) Inner clan rivalry, i.e. rival family constellations in their own village.

This (C) is the third and most probable theory, which can be deduced from my text.

D) Is that Ötzi would have been some kind of customs officer murdered by smugglers.

I am very skeptical to this, especially as he died alone! Why would a customs officer who runs the risk of encountering dangerous smugglers be alone when working? Everyone must have known that it was harsh times, especially a customs person. Furthermore, the distance between the archer who killed Ötzi and Ötzi himself was relatively large. The arrow had penetrated into the back wryly from below and stopped before the heart, but cut an artery so that Ötzi bled to death. If it had been smugglers who killed a customs official (if we suspect Ötzi of being that) then the copper ax would have been stolen. But that was not the case, the copper ax was not stolen, it remained five meters away from the body when the 5000-year-old mummy was discovered. Although a customs official would hardly have had a copper ax in his possession for more than a day, so we can probably strike that scenario.

Then there is a fifth hypothesis, an ad hoc theory, which is not very likely either;

E) It was customs officers who murdered Ötzi.

If it had been customs men who murdered Ötzi, the copper ax would have been confiscated.

The murder mystery

Now that we have established the most probable theory (C) inner clan rivalry, we can move on. Here’s how I think the murder happened: The fact that the lethal arrow didn’t hit Ötzi with full force, and that it hit him in the back, suggests that Ötzi was trying to escape and thus put some distance between himself and the archer. The fact that the arrow hit the chest wryly from below in his back indicates that the murderers (in pluralis!) ambushed Ötzi right behind the mountain ridge that Ötzi passed, on the Austrian side so that they could scout for him with a clear view without risk of being detected from a long distance or be discovered from the tracks left by the murderers in the snow when Ötzi came up the crest from the Italian side. If you come from the same side of the mountains as Ötzi, then by taking a detour and ambush him on the other side of the mountains you do not reveal yourself by leaving footprints in the snow, which you do when you ambush someone on the same side of the mountain. Of course, it is necessary to take a detour from the Italian side to the ambush place in Austria, but there is nothing contradictory in such a method, on the contrary, it is logical, practical and probable. But we know that Ötzi climbed the mountain in the springtime, so leaving traces in the snow was perhaps not the biggest problem of the killers. The plotter had placed some men on the other side of the top behind a stone or under camouflage on the Austrian side, so that Ötzi could not escape in several directions if the environment allowed that. At least I would have tried to arrange it that way, but it is entirely dependent on the environment on the mountain at the regular hiking trail at the time. Ötzi saw the men where his nose first pointed a little further down the mountain on the Austrian side and turned and ran upwards, whereupon he was shot in the back by the archman. It is known that Ötzi was shot in the back wryly from below. And this happened on the Austrian side where Ötzi was found with his head towards the mountain crest. If the body had slipped in the snow during these five millennias, chances are that the heavier upper body would have been heading downwards. Ötzi should thus have traveled from the Italian side. Once we have determined that Ötzi came from Italy, we can make conclusions that would otherwise have been considered a little bit wild. Go on reading!

But why did Ötzi have wounds to his body from a few days earlier? And why didn’t the killers take the valuable ax with them, and why did the killer pull out the arrow shaft? And why did Ötzi think he would go safe alone on his hike? He went alone, because if any of Ötzi’s men (supposedly) had managed to escape, the obvious benefits to the murderers of leaving the ax would be lost, otherwise Ötzi’s men would also have been killed and become mummified or skeletons and they would have found them at the same time they found Ötzi 5000 years later. And why is there a church stone in Austria that describes the murder in detail if the murder was so secret that the murderers left the ax? I have a good answer to all of this.

On the Austrian side of Inndalen, metal ore was mined from which metal was extracted, and the area was already quite densely populated. I think that Ötzi was an Italian gentleman who was about to hold a clan marriage with some prominent person from the Austrian side. An intermarriage was extremely important, because on the Austrian side they had a well-developed metal industry. The clan marriage was rejected by some rival on the Italian side, who had hitherto kept a low tone or at least tried to keep it within a relatively narrow circle. I think this because Ötzi took the risk of traveling alone across the border, probably in a manner that he thought was stealthy. I think Ötzi was already losing his role as clan leader for a relatively large village, otherwise he would not plan to leave his village alone at a fateful time, for a marriage arrangement, probably what he thought was a secret one until the wedding was supposed to take place. After all, he must have planned his journey if mine and other scientists assumptions that Ötzi’s death was preceded by an internal conflict is sound. Then the antagonist could send some men to ambush Ötzi, when he got the information about Ötzi’s departure. The antagonist could hardly have received the information from Ötzi about Ötzi’s planned departure, which points to simultaneous intrigues (alternatively a reverse causality – that the simultaneous intrigues made Ötzi not give the information to the antagonist – the result will be the same). Approaches like this and the supposed wedding arrangement suggest that neither Ötzi nor his antagonist were any youngsters, but they were family fathers with adult children, if it is a correct assumption. It was one of Ötzi’s own children that Ötzi wanted to wedlock with some Austrian nobelman or woman, otherwise he would not have traveled over the Alps himself. Ötzi may not have had many trusted people at the time of his departure because he chose to travel alone. It may therefore be that Ötzi knew that there was an informant in his own circle of friends. Or he needed every man in his own village. And given that Ötzi’s antagonist had trusted men to spare for two separate assault sites, it seems contradictory that Ötzi exposed himself so much by traveling alone. But if Ötzi was a risk taker, an A-personality, a player with leadership qualities which was probably the case, both hypotheses seem to be true – he needed every man in the village and therefore traveled alone as the risk taker he was, much like that of successful soldiers and officers in war, taking risks not to commit “selbstmord aus angst vor dem tod” (suicide from fear of death), as German soldiers said during World War II. So it is not I who have said that leaders with leadership qualities are risk-taking A-personalities. In addition, the village must have consisted of at least 100 people in order for someone to be able to mobilize at least a dozen men without noticing that these men had left the village at least one day in advance before Ötzi did so. In addition, they must have taken a detour so that they wouldn’t leave traces at the usual climbing route where Ötzi would travel. And as mentioned – the only place they could ambush Ötzi in the Alps was therefore on a mountain ridge, otherwise it would become obvious that the killers had gone before and how many they were. The fact that Ötzi traveled in the springtime indicates that Ötzi wanted to get the marriage completed before the next winter, so that he would gain influence in the metal clan or at least access to metals and a strengthened position in his village before it would no longer be possible to cross the Alps. But whatever matter anyone may have on the other side of the mountains, it is likely that they would have traveled in the spring, summer or fall, intrigues or not intrigues in the village.

Ötzi’s half-healed wounds indicate that his antagonist had taken the safe option before the unsafe option and prepared for an ambush on Ötzi at two different places, first in the forest on the Italian side and then on the ridge, but failed on the first occasion where Ötzi fled. According to studies of Ötzi’s intestinal system and stomach, it appears that Ötzi first climbed the mountain, only to turn and walk down again, and then walk up again on the same path as he went down. It can only indicate two things, together or separately:

a) Ötzi had his family in the village and he feared for their lives.
b) Ötzi feared what awaited him at the ridge.

It is likely that Ötzi chose to continue over the mountain ridge at night, but it is also likely that Ötzi traveled across the Alps at full moon, which you can assume that everyone did at the time. The fact that he first turned and went down, without being attacked downside, also indicates that no one bothered to follow Ötzi after the first attack. This reinforces my partial theory of two separate assaults by different perpetrators but with the same antagonist still in the village, and it also confirms some scientists’ theory that it was precisely an internal clan struggle that was the underlying cause behind Ötzi’s death, otherwise he would have had no reason to first walk up the mountain and then down and then up again, and he was injured in a fight a few days earlier. The Italians were the only ones who knew that Ötzi would pass where he passed at that particular time and place. A handful of men ambushed and murdered Ötzi as described. They had to leave the copper ax because Ötzi was a clan leader and the clan was in Italy where they would retire later, otherwise they would probably have been punished for regal killing. I bet Ötzi feared an attack on the peak of the Alps, after the first assault that probably took place in a forest because he escaped the archers at that time. But Ötzi was not just anyone, he was a clan leader and a brave man, and the road to the “top” was the quickest and fastest if the murderers pursued him. The murderers coldhammered calculated that Ötzi was most likely to do so, since they knew Ötzi. Ötzi couldn’t turn back because he knew who it was that had made an assault on him and he knew that this area would be the first area for them to scout. Besides, it wasn’t an option to come back emptyhanded. His only chance was to continue the fastest route to Austria and seek help from his new-found allies there.

The killers pulled out the arrow in Ötzi’s back to leave as few traces as possible, perhaps fearing that the Italian woodcraft on the arrow shaft or feathers would reveal them. In the heat of the moment, they did not realize that precisely this would cast shadows on them if Ötzi’s body was discovered. Why? Let’s turn the steak and see it from the eyes of a criminologist: Someone had tried to hide his identity (the murderer) by pulling out the arrow (the tip remained inside the victim’s body). These perpetrators left the precious copper ax untouched, so it was hardly from stinginess they pulled out the arrow. Nor was it from fear of being left without ammunition that they pulled out the arrow, as Ötzi’s killer broke off several of Ötzi’s arrows on the spot. Had there been one or more robbers, he/she would not have bothered to pull out the arrow, but they would have taken the copper ax. But now it was some of Ötzi’s tribal members from their own village, and then it seems logical, in the eyes of a criminologist, for the perpetrators to pull out the arrow but leave the copper ax. This is a good indication (which also reveals the motive for the murder) as I said, but it is no evidence. (As if evidence would be a requirement for police action at the Neolithic era, when one has such a strong indication. Evidence at that time was scarce.) And the approach can certainly be confirmed by any police officer, prosecutor, lawyer, judge and committee of any kind, being a criminal’s (in this case, a regal murderer’s) typical approach.

The church stone in Austria with the engravement of the murder then? Why didn’t the murderers take the ax if they were so happy to brag through engraved stones with ocher? I explain the church stone with the fact that the murderers were successful in climbing the social ladder after the murder. The church stone was thus created after the situation had stabilized for the new clan leaders, perhaps one or more generations afterwards, when the murderers had built up their empire and the murder had transformed into a heroic act. But in order for it to be true, an intermarriage arrangement must still have taken place sometime later between someone in the new clan and the Austrians, since the engraved stone was found in a church in Austria.

The alternative explanation for the handcrafted church stone (which was not initially a church stone since it was made 5,000 years ago) is a bit far-fetched, namely that the murder was revealed when the body was found by the Austrians 5,000 years ago, and it was found that an arrow had caused Ötzi’s death – all according to my criminologist’s reasoning – and that it coincided that the body could not be carried home because of a snowstorm which subsequently covered the body with snow and ice which never melted again and thus made it impossible to find the body again. Until a little more than a decade ago. The copper ax was located some distance from the body (five meters), and with a little luck it could have been hidden in snow when the body was first found in the era. Everything depends on how exactly a storm strikes, or how nature appeared at the time when the body was supposedly found 5,000 years ago, partly because the ax must be hidden in snow without any traces left, but partly the body must still be discoverable in the snow. The copper ax is the first thing a rescue team would have been looking for in the era. One can imagine even more wild speculations about Austrian murderers who switched sides, but then we would be talking conspiracy theories.

My indicated theory, incidentally, means that the civilization in Europe did not have its cradle in Italy or Greece.

Roger Mikael Klang

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Roger Klang

I come from Arboga, Sweden, same latitude as Stockholm, Oslo and Helsinki. The year in which I was born was 1965. But I grew up in the region of Scania in the south end of Sweden. I believe in God and his son Jesus Christ but I still don’t go to Church. I don’t know what else to say about myself so I’ll stop here. The truth is, you wouldn’t know me if you had read a book about me. I’m pretty unique I like to think. We all are, but especially me. Roger M. Klang, civis Lundensis

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