Scientists Found Out What ‘Otzi the Iceman’ Ate 5,300 Years Ago

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The frozen corpse found in the Alps, known as ‘Otzi the Iceman,’ has been again analyzed. Scientists now looked inside its stomach to find out what ancient Europeans ate over five millennia ago.

In 1991, tourists found the corpse in the Ötztal Alps, and he was nicknamed “Ötzi.” The mummy was so well preserved, that they thought it was a recently deceased mountaineer, so the tourists called the mountain gendarme. They retrieved the body and took it to a medical examiner. Two days later, an archaeologist came to analyze the body and the tools that were found with it. He dated the corpse to be over four thousand years old.

After 18 years since it was discovered, a radiologist found the stomach behind the rib cage, as it seemed it moved upwards after he died. The team slowly defrosted the body and took samples from his stomach to rehydrate them and find out what was his last meal.

A Feast that Helped Humans Survive Harsh Conditions

In the study published on 12 June in the journal Current Biology, scientists explained they found fat and meat of a wild goat (ibex), meat of a red deer and whole wheat seeds. They also found traces of fern leaves and spores. Scientists believe that the man either swallowed them by mistake or he took them to treat himself from parasites which they previously found in his gut.

A microbiologist at the Institute for Mummy Studies (Bolzano, Italy) and the lead author of this study, Frank Maixner said about their discovery the following:

“It was very impressive. We could see chunks and pieces of food with [the] naked eye.”

Almost half of the food Otzi ate was the fat of the ibex. Maixner, who also climbed to the spot where the mummy was found, has an obvious explanation:

“It’s a harsh environment. They had to be prepared. They had to have food that gave them the necessary energy [to survive.]”

Now that scientists found out what people ate five millennia ago, they are taking a step further. Maixner and his colleagues will try to reconstruct the bacteria and the microorganisms that inhabited the Iceman’s gut to see the difference between them and the ones in the modern human.

According to a CT scan and X-rays from 2001, Otzi died of blood loss from a wound left by an arrow lodged in his left shoulder.

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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