Discovered quite accidentally by a group of hikers in 1991 in the Oetztal Alps (in modern-day north Italy), Ötzi the Iceman had been entombed underneath an alpine glacier for nearly 5,300 years. This easily makes him Europe’s oldest natural mummy. Interestingly, a new research done few months ago also established how Ötzi (or Oetzi) is also the oldest known tattooed human in history, with as many as 61 markings spread across 19 parts of his well preserved body. The intriguing scope however doesn’t stop there; recent forensic evidence additionally shed light on how the Iceman might have been murdered – thus pertaining to one of the earliest known cases of ancient crime. And now Ötzi the Iceman is set to take his mummified form once again, this time with the aid of advanced 3D printing technology.
Utilizing the nifty applications of actual 3D medical printing technology, world-famous paleo artist, has collaborated with Materialize (the provider of the 3D medical printing tech) to create a exact three-dimensional replica of Ötzi the Iceman. In fact, this 3D creation will be the world’s only official replica of Ötzi, as the original counterpart is snugly sealed up in a climate-controlled vault in Bolzano, Italy – to mitigate the effects of deterioration caused by external agents.
So exactly was this fascinating process of 3D printing achieved? According to the media brief sent by the designers and the experts –
The Ice Man was first subjected to standard medical imaging in the form of CT scans. Because some body parts were missing, Materialise engineers had to painstakingly recreate those missing elements. One such missing part were some of Ötzi’s ribs, which an engineer had to design back into the body by mirroring other existing ribs in 3-matic. Once the body was captured as a single continuous image, the Materialise engineering team then set about to bring the world’s only copy of the Ice Man to life. Using its own patented mammoth Stereolithography machine, Materialise recreated the 5’5” replica from an amber bath of liquid resin. World famous Paleo artist Gary Staab next went to work on the 3D resin model. After layer upon layer of material and paint, Staab added the life-like finishing touches to the Ice Man replica such that some would be hard pressed to see any difference between the original and its replica. This wasn’t the first collaboration between Materialise and Staab, either, as both had been called upon to create a replica of the famous Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun.
Staab interestingly mentions how the incredibly detailed 3D replica would be more accurate for researchers when they are conducting and compiling scanned data (as opposed to analog measurements) on Ötzi the Iceman. And the really conscientious part is, other than precise historical investigations, the advanced 3D technology in question here is also used in hospitals around the world for furnishing 3D printed vital organs and bones that are further used in surgeries.
A new Nova PBS documentary also covers this fascinating subject of 3D printing the Ötzi the Iceman. The short clip (given below) by Materialize provides a summary of the incredible process achieved by Staab and his team.