Ötzi’s Place in Prehistory Explored by Fifth Graders

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English Class fifth graders are well into exploring early civilizations in history these days after completing a comprehensive unit on prehistory. It was a fascinating subject for the pupils and everyone enjoyed learning about what might have happened during the time before recorded history, and the evolution of humans as a species. In addition to learning about the different ages of man from Australopithecus to Homo Sapiens, pupils did a lot of research on probably the most studied human body in the history of science – Ötzi the Iceman. In 1991 some hikers discovered a body in the Swiss Alps. Because the body was so well preserved, it was initially thought that it was the body of someone who had gotten lost while hiking or skiing. However, it soon became apparent that this discovery was so much more, and would turn out to be one of the most important scientific discoveries of the century.

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The hikers had discovered the body of a man who lived around 5300 years ago; his body, clothes, tools and even some of his organs perfectly preserved in the freezing and anaerobic environment. This led to the body being affectionately labelled Ötzi. Ötzi has since been the subject of intense study and speculation and he is still revealing his secrets to this day.

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The 5EN class did a lot of research into Ötzi, using  Chromebooks. They also watched a documentary about his life and how he might have died.  It proved a captivating subject for the whole class. Each pupil produced an information poster about Ötzi who proved to be just a popular character to us in our classroom as he has been to the world of science. 

Trying to get pupils to understand the scale of history and time is challenging. It is hard to grasp just how long ago 1 million years is, let alone 10,000 years or 5000 years. Opportunities to do projects like this one, where the subject matter is so accessible and interesting are a valuable tool in getting children to understand the sheer scale of time, as well as their own place in history.

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