Archaeology: “Theo” takes to the road

25/02/2014

The "mercenary” on show in the Matterhorn Museum - Zermatlantis has disappeared. Until February 2015, “Theo” will be on loan to the “Frozen Stories” exhibition in Bolzano’s “Ötzi museum” (South Tyrol, Italy).

“Theo”, the human remains of a man, was found by Zermatt residents on the Upper Theodul Glacier in the 1980s. Referred to as “mercenary” due to the collection of weapons found on him, “Theo” was accompanied by a flintlock pistol, a sword and numerous knives. The Matterhorn Museum - Zermatlantis had been exhibiting his bones, weapons, fragments of his clothes and coins. Until February 2015, Zermatt‘s mummified corps will be on loan to the Ötzi museum in Bolzano.

In the context of its “Frozen Stories” exhibition, the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology is showing objects released by Alpine glaciers in the last few years, among them “Theo” as well as wooden, metal, leather and fabric objects. The rapid melting of the glaciers has given rise to a new type of archaeology – glacier archaeology. The objects are evidence that humans moved around the Alpine region thousands of years ago, crossing even the highest mountain passes.

Theodul pass - area of archaeological interest

According to Sophie Providoli of the Historical Museum in Sion, Valais, “Theo” is probably the best-known historical glacier corps in Europe, an “Ötzi” of the early modern age. His remains, including rarely-found everyday objects of the time, provide a unique inside into the last moments of a traveller around the turn of the 16th century. The Historical Museum in Valais, which owns the archaeological finds that came with Theo, keeps the majority of the objects in its historical collection centre.

Before travelling to Bolzano, “Theo” was subjected to an in-depth examination at the Historical Museum in Valais, giving local archaeologists an opportunity to prepare a monograph on “Theo’s” remains.