Day By Day

Friday, February 18, 2005

Curse of the Iceman

I suppose this was inevitable. Ever since Howard Carter made off with King Tut's loot archaeological finds have been associated with curses. It appears Oetzi is no different. Reuters reports the latest on the iceman including this:
Science has also been unable to explain a series of sinister accidents since the iceman wasdiscovered. Forensic medic Rainer Henn, one of the first to touch the mummy, died in a car crash on his way to a lecture about Oetzi. A mountain guide who helped with the find plunged to his death, and a journalist who filmed the excavation died from cancer. Last October, Helmut Simon fell to his death in the Alps after a sudden onset of bad weather near the spot where he had discovered Oetzi. Walter Leitner was close to the scene the night Simon died. At the time, he was explaining his iceman theory to a team of U.S. American journalists when they too were suddenly engulfed by the storm and had to be rescued by helicopter." At that moment I thought of my survival rather than the curse; of my family; my daughter's birthday the next day, and how I would maybe not be there," Leitner said." The next day, when I arrived at the institute, people were saying, 'have you heard, Helmut Simon went missing in the mountains', and that's when I started feeling a bit queasy."The archaeologist explained Simon had been profoundly moved by his discovery, seeing it as a religious signal to convert to Christianity.

Is that last statement a non-sequitur or is the story suggesting that in secular Europe conversion to Christianity is sufficient to trigger a curse?

Note also the anthropomorphization of "science"; the identification of archaeology with science; and the fact that the archaeologist seems to spend a lot of time talking to the press. As I noted in an earlier post, the first rule of archaeology seems to be: "keep the press informed."

Read the whole thing here.

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