Decipher the mystery of the 5.300-year-old Icemaп mυmmy iп the Alps

Ötzi the Iceman, a frozen mummy found in the Alps in 1991, may be the world’s best-studied remains.

The mummy of the Iceman Ötzi and previous reconstructions. Image: Ancient Origins

The mystery surrounding Ötzi’s violent death, and the identity and reason for the man at the top of the mountain attract much attention. Every year, thousands of people visit his mummy preserved in the cold chamber at the Archaeological Museum of South Tyrol in Bolzano, Italy. In a new study published on August 16 in the journal Cell Genomics, Albert Zink, director of the Mummy Research Institute at the Eurac Research center in Bolzano, and his collaborators analyzed ancient DNA taken from Ötzi’s pelvis, helping to uncover some secrets about the man who lived 5.300 years ago.

Famed 5,300-Year-Old Alps Iceman Was a Balding Middle-Aged Man With Dark  Skin and Eyes | Science| Smithsonian Magazine

The results of genetic analysis revealed that the millennial mummy had dark skin, dark eyes and was likely to be bald. This contrasts with Ötzi’s reconstruction of an ancient man with pale skin, a full head of hair, and a beard. According to Zink, researchers previously thought that his complexion became dark due to the mummification process. However, it seems that the skin color of the mummy is quite close to the natural skin color of Iceman when he was alive.

5,300-Year-Old Ötzi the Iceman Has 19 Living Relatives In Austria

That’s not a surprising fact because many Europeans at that time had darker skin tones than they do today. Over time, their skin color became lighter as a way of adapting to climate change and farmers’ diets. Farmers absorb much less vitamin D in their diets than hunter-gatherers. It seems that Iceman still eats quite a bit of meat because the team discovered mountain goat and deer meat when analyzing his stomach.

While analysis of ancient DNA indicates that Ötzi was bald, researchers cannot be sure how much baldness he experienced during his lifetime. According to archaeologist Lars Holger Pilø, co-director of the Secrets of the Ice project in Norway, Ötzi may have gone bald due to genetic reasons, but almost complete baldness is more likely to occur after his death. The hair on the skin usually falls out during the time the body is in the ice as the cuticle breaks down.

The genome sequenced from DNA in Ötzi’s pelvis is more complete than the genome reconstructed in 2012 thanks to technological advances. When the team compared the new genome with other ancient human populations, they found that he had much in common with farmers in Anatolia, present-day Turkey. According to Zink, Icemen probably lived in relatively isolated areas and had limited contact with other populations.

Nearly every part of Ötzi and his objects has been analyzed. The contents of his stomach give information about his last meal and where he came from, leftover weapons reveal he was right-handed, and the clothes on the mummy show what the ancients wore at the time. Initially, researchers thought Ötzi died of cold, but X-ray images in 2001 revealed that the arrow in the shoulder could have caused a fatal wound. He also suffered a head injury and a self-defense wound on his right hand. Zink’s team hopes they can learn more details like the makeup of Iceman’s microbiome.

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