Ötzi the Iceman’s Technology

We took a quick aside in our typical 5th grade Technology curriculum to make connections to some ancient technologies. Students are reading Frozen Man by David Getz as an introduction to investigating history. The book covers the discovery of Ötzi the Iceman in the Austrian Alps, a mummified Neolithic man whose life came to sudden end and  was preserved along with much of his clothing and tools intact.

It’s important to me that students think about technology as more than just modern high-tech gadgets, but instead as tools that evolve throughout time. My goal is to let them experience ancient tools hands-on just like they use modern tools everyday.

To start the lesson, I handed each student a stone tool such as a hand-axe, Clovis point, or stone awl without explaining it’s name or function. Then we launched a NOVA interactive called Stone Age Toolkit from PBS on the projector. As we went through the interactive quiz, students worked together to identify their particular stone tool and deduce it’s function. Then we watched a brief video clip demonstrating how stone tools were made from NOVA scienceNOW titled Stone Age Language Mystery. The section of the video that we watched (20:20 – 24:26) showed anthropologists showcasing flint-knapping skills to craft stone tools. At that point I always like to discuss how complicated stone toolmaking really is with the students. We finished lesson with an “artifact petting zoo” with some replicas of tools that Ötzi was found with including a dagger, arrow with feather fletching and the famous copper axe head. The South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology’s site dedicated to Ötzi is a terrific resource to share with students as well. It has terrific documentation of the story of the ice mummy and the artifacts that he was found with.


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