But now a sophisticated forensic scientific technique has been used for the first time in a court case of a woman accused of illegally offering carved ivory items for sale on e Bay.
Following a tip-off from the National Wildlife Crime Unit, Hampshire Police raided the home of a woman from Aldershot in April 2007 and found 34 items.
When they returned to the mountain hut where they were staying, they alerted the authorities, who assumed the body was one of the missing climbers lost every year in the crevasses that crisscross the glaciers of the region.
But after the remains were delivered to nearby Innsbruck, Austria, Konrad Spindler, an archaeologist from the university there, ascertained that the corpse was prehistoric.
Thanks to CT scanning, 3-D printing and other forensic techniques, a team of scientists and artists now know approximately when the woman lived, where she lived, what she ate and why she may have died.
Questions of her history first came up when Ryan Jefferies, curator for the Harry Brookes Allen Museum of Anatomy and Pathology at the University of Melbourne, began to worry that the mummified remains might be decaying from the inside.
Anthropologist Caroline Wilkinson from Liverpool John Moores University in the UK who is an expert in facial reconstruction, seconded the finding.