Monday, December 4, 2006

In 1991, two hikers discovered a 5000-year-old corpse. Scientists identified the ancient man as a hunter or trader from the Neolithic or ‘New’ Stone Age. Because his corpse was exhumed from the icy Alps, and he was likely preserved in a glacier, he became known as ‘Iceman.’ Iceman has been touted as the world’s oldest mummy. A similar discovery, however, went unnoticed by the public 8 years later.

In 1999, two American tourists left Amsterdam abruptly. In a matter of hours, they were snowboarding in the French Alps “catching air over bumps” as they later dictated to police. Protruding from the base of one icy bump was a human hand.

Police reports quote the snowboarding tourists as saying they were “freaked out, I mean, it’s like definitely a hand, with a big pinky ring, but it’s black and shriveled, like beef jerky, or really good hash.”

Exhumation and analysis—including sophisticated radiocarbon dating— revealed the mummified corpse was that of another Neolithic trader, though likely of a different sort than his counterpart to the west. Archeologists were initially puzzled—and awkwardly impressed—with this Iceman’s clothing. Traces of cherry and raspberry extract were identified in his tight leather leggings and open-necked, sleeveless tunic. “I don’t think he was a sloppy eater,” one scientist observed, “On the contrary, this Iceman seems very meticulous about his attire; the rich, enduring berry pigments were likely used to dye his clothing red or pink.” In addition to the leather shirt and pants, a number of other clothing items were discovered on and around the body. The French Iceman wore a goose feather boa with traces of beet extract, matching snakeskin belt and boots and an undergarment similar to a men’s G-string pouch. A full-length, fur overcoat was also nearby.

The ruby pinky ring was not the only jewelry found. The Franco-Iceman wore gemstone necklaces of various sizes, some with stone medallions containing carved outlines of the feminine physique. Countless precious jewels were sewn into his clothing and studded in wood piercings, in his ears, face and parts of a more private nature. His body markings consisted of permanent sideburns, likely applied as ink below the skin with sharpened sticks, much like tattoos. Additional body art designs used a kind of symbol script, perhaps words or names in an ancient language, all of which appear to be crossed out except one. Other tattooed images contain stick-figure drawings. Though simple, the drawings unmistakably depict very flexible human beings engaged in explicit activities. Tattoos of a heart with an arrow through it, a thorny branch around the bicep, and a mermaid were also identified.

In the Franco-Iceman’s fur-lined, leather bag, scientists discovered two wooden snares that look much like modern day stiletto-heeled shoes. A pair of fishnets was also in the pack, leading many who studied him to conclude this Iceman was just a well-dressed fisherman. Colorfully clothed and weaponless, he would likely have been a poor hunter. However, the snares indicate he may have trapped and traded fur as a means of sustenance. Several lambskins were also in his bag.

Toxicology and disease reports of analyzed tissue indicate the ancient Frenchman had infected genitalia, a damaged liver and contaminated lungs. It is uncertain what ancient habits led to these conditions. Cause of death was organ failure, raging illness or the hole in his back near the spine.

For reasons unclear to the Ph.D. archeologists in charge, laypeople close to the discovery refer to the mummified corpse as “Icepimp.”

Daniel Byard Cox is an electrical engineer in Chicago where he spends his days squinting at tiny circuit boards with solder irons in both hands, inhaling poisonous lead-laced fumes and trying not to burn himself. Dan says the burns hurt but his wounds are instantly cauterized. So—not to be outdone by Carl—he has that going for him. Plus, he gets a meager salary and a fulfillment enjoyed only by those in the legions of anonymous servants of “The Man.” Yes, Danny Boy is a happy fellow whose work can be found at McSweeney’s and in unopened emails in the inboxes of his friends.

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