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A legal battle sparked by the discovery of the world-famous 5,300-year-old "Iceman" known as Oetzi in northern Italy in 1991 has finally been settled.

German hikers Erika and Helmut Simon found the remains, but officials in the north Italian province of Bolzano had refused an adequate finders' fee.

A court ruled against the province in 2006, and it has finally agreed to pay 150,000 euros (£120,000; $216,000).

But the award has come too late for Mr Simon, who died four years ago.

The money will go to his 71-year-old widow.

Tourist income

The row began in earnest in 1994, when the Simons turned down a "symbolic" reward of 10 million lire (5,200 euros).

Italian law stipulates a finders' fee of 25% of a discovery's value. Oetzi has brought many visitors to Bolzano - and millions of euros as a result.

In 2006 a court ordered the provincial government to ''properly'' compensate Erika Simon.

But lawyers for the council contested the ruling.

They argued that the council had footed the bill for the excavation and provided an air-conditioned, temperature-controlled home for the iceman.

On Monday, the council finally agreed to the Mrs Simon's claim, saying the reward was in recognition of the couple's discovery and the tourist income it attracts.

Curse of Oetzi?

The BBC's Mark Duff, in Milan, says Oetzi has brought nothing but bad luck to many of those involved in his discovery.

Mr Simon died in a mountaineering accident in 2004, and six other people linked to the discovery in some way have died in apparently mysterious circumstances.

This has all led to talk of a Tutankhamen-like "curse of Oetzi", our correspondent says.

Oetzi, named after the Oetz Valley where he was discovered, was one of the great archaeological finds of recent years.

He was still wearing goatskin leggings and a grass cape, and his copper-headed axe and a quiver full of arrows were lying nearby.

At first, it was thought he died from cold and hunger, but researchers were eventually able to establish that he died from injuries sustained in a conflict.

Oetzi was about 159cm tall (5ft 2.5in), 46 years old, arthritic, and infested with whipworm.

BBC News, 29 September 2008

|||Iceman row ends after 17 years
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