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Ötzi, the iceman

One of the most important discoveries of this century in the field of archaeology is for sure 'Ötzi', the mummy from the Similaun glacier, almost 5,500 years old. An entire museum has been set up in Bolzano for Ötzi, and Angelantoni Industrie has reproduced the climate conditions of the Schnalstal valley glacier here.

'Ötzi' was found by chance in September 1991 by two German tourists at an altitude of 3,200 m in Italian territory, only 92 meters from the Austrian border. The importance of the discovery lies in the fact that the body of a man, apparently 40 years old, who lived almost 5,500 years ago, has been preserved until today with an almost intact organism thanks to the protection of the ice.

The man, whose life was cut short by the cold and whose body has survived to this day thanks to ice, had to return to the 'realm of the cold' and the 'realm of the cold' is surely represented by the futuristic equipment produced by Angelantoni for the preservation of the mummy.

The main difficulty to overcome during the design phase was the reproduction of the environment in which the mummy had been preserved for over 5,000 years.

The climate conditions to be simulated were a temperature of -6°C (relatively easy) but with humidity close to 100%, such as that found inside the ice, all ensuring the best accuracy in controlling the measurements. Only then would the mummy not become dehydrated and lose part of its weight.

The project was therefore a real technological challenge for Angelantoni, who started building the prototype in spring 1996. The prototype was tested for a few months with a sample mummy inside, and in the summer of 1997, the International Commission gave Angelantoni permission to build the entire climate system.

An entire museum has been set up for Ötzi in Bolzano (South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology) in the former headquarters of the Bank of Italy. For Angelantoni Industrie, it was a successful challenge to preserve a man from the past and make him available for all future generations.

The preservation system

The whole system consists of 4 chambers each with a different function.

The first chamber is located at the entrance to the laboratory and is used as a sterile chamber in which personnel is decontaminated of any bacteria, harmful to the preservation of the mummy, using an ultraviolet system with class 10,000 filtered air.

The laboratory chamber can work in a temperature range of up to -6°C depending on staff demand. The air-conditioning system is equipped with special filters to ensure an absolutely 'clean' environment in class 1000, with class 10 in the usual working area on the mummy.

Finally, the heart of the system is the two mummy chambers, one of which is a complete backup to the other.

The Ötzi chamber is equipped with the highest security systems, such as a porthole with bullet-proof glass for public viewing and a twin-chamber installed nearby to ensure the preservation of the mummy against any sudden failure of the former.

The air conditioning system of the rooms was manufactured according to the highest technological standards to ensure the required performance (T= -6°C, RH= 98%). For safety reasons, it consists of two independent units for each chamber. Each unit operates with an indirect type of cooling system in which the thermo-regulation of the air is carried out through an air-liquid exchanger. The coolers are installed across all the walls of the chamber to ensure the best uniformity of temperature and humidity, in the absence of forced ventilation which would damage the mummy.

Humidity is produced through the sublimation of ice and measured with a special 'chilled mirror system', integrated with electronic devices, according to the 'dew point' control method. The lighting is based on a cold fiber-optic light system integrated with filters for ultraviolet and infrared rays to prevent deterioration of the mummy.

Control and security systems

Ötzi's sleep is protected by many security systems and alarms, all controlled by a high-tech Siemens PLC (the same one used to control nuclear power plants).

Up to 500 logical signals can be controlled at any one time, used for compressors, automatic valves, pumps, heat exchangers, etc.

Every 250 milliseconds, 40 measurements are made, mainly for temperature, humidity and pressure.

All data is captured and stored in a Data Acquisition and Alarm Control System, including the status of lights, door openings and the weight of the mummy.

Ötzi, who currently weighs around 16 kg, is placed on a special scale, which is capable of measuring any change in weight of less than one gram.