Death in the Ice

Re-investigations of the Remains from the Theodul Glacier (Switzerland)


  • Amelie Alterauge University of Bern & University of Heidelberg
  • Sophie Providoli Valais History Museum, Sion
  • Negahnaz Moghaddam University of Bern
  • Sandra Lösch University of Bern



glacier corpses, historical archaeology


Scattered human and animal bones, weapons, knives, jewellery, coins, leather fragments and fabrics were found at the Upper Theodul glacier (Switzerland) between 1984 and the early 1990s. The finds are assumed to represent a single fatal event. Until recently, the remains were interpreted as those of a mercenary. All objects and fabrics were restored and investigated by experts on behalf of the Valais History Museum using macroscopic, microscopic and typological methods. The animal bones were sorted, identified and attributed to species. The human remains, the main focus of this article, were investigated using standard osteological methods, computed tomography, and stable isotope analysis. The bones belong to an adult male individual who was wearing woollen and silk clothes and leather shoes. He was equipped with a rapier, a dagger and a wheel-lock pistol that were probably manufactured in Germany. Due to their type, it is unlikely that the weapons were used as military arms. The coins were mainly minted in Northern Italy and date the fatal event on the Theodul glacier to around 1600 AD. The associated finds, in particular the weapons, contest the former interpretation as a mercenary and suggest an identification as a traveller or tradesman.

Author Biography

Sandra Lösch, University of Bern

Dept. of Physical Anthropology


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How to Cite

Alterauge, A., Providoli, S., Moghaddam, N., & Lösch, S. (2016). Death in the Ice: Re-investigations of the Remains from the Theodul Glacier (Switzerland). Journal of Glacial Archaeology, 2, 35-50.