South Tyrol Archaeological Museum/Ochsenreiter
A reconstruction of Ötzi the Iceman is on display at the South Tyrolean Archaeological Museum.
Editor’s note: Sign up for CNN’s Wonder Theory science newsletter. Explore the universe with news about fascinating discoveries, scientific breakthroughs and more.
Ötzi the Iceman, whose frozen remains were discovered in 1991 by mountaineers in a high valley in the Tyrolean Alps, may be the most closely studied corpse in the world.
The mystery of his violent death, who he was and how he ended up on a mountain pass has sparked fascination beyond archaeology. Every year, thousands visit his mummy at the South Tyrol Archaeological Museum in Bolzano, Italy.
A new study of ancient DNA extracted from Ötzi’s pelvis suggests he may have some more secrets to give up. An analysis of her genetic makeup revealed that the 5,300-year-old mummy had dark skin and dark eyes – and may have been bald. This contrasts with Ötzi’s reconstruction, which depicts a light-skinned man with a full head of hair and beard.
“It was previously believed that her skin had darkened during the mummification process,” said Albert Zink, head of the Mummy Studies Institute at Urac Research, a private research center in Bolzano.
“The mummy’s dark skin color seems to be very close to the snowman’s skin color. Throughout life,” said Zink, co-author of the research published Wednesday in the scientific journal Cell Genomics.
Not surprisingly, Ötzi is dark-skinned, Zink said by email, as are many Europeans Darker skin pigmentation may have been present at the time than many present-day Europeans.
“Early European farmers still had dark skin, which changed to lighter skin over time as farmers’ climate and diet changed. Farmers consumed much less vitamin D in their diet compared to hunter-gatherers,” he explained.
“Iceman seems to have consumed a lot more meat, which was confirmed by our analysis of his stomach which showed the presence of ibex and deer meat,” he added.
South Tyrol Museum/Urac/Marco Samatelli-Gregor Stachitz
Ötzi’s mummified body is perhaps the most closely studied archaeological find in the world.
Zing’s co-author Johannes Krauss, director of the Department of Archaeogenetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said the findings suggest the Iceman was mummy-like in life.
“It is remarkable how the reconstruction is biased by our own prediction of a Neolithic man from Europe,” Krause said in a statement.
Although ancient DNA analysis suggests Ötzi had male pattern baldness, it’s impossible to say for sure how much he lost his hair during his lifetime, said archaeologist Lars Holker Bilo, co-director of the Secrets of the Ice project in Norway. He has studied Ötzi but has not engaged in recent research.
“Ötzi may have gone bald for genetic reasons, but my opinion is that the complete baldness he has now may have happened after his death,” said Bilo.
“The hair on the skin often falls out when (the body) is there Out on the ice (and sometimes in the water) the epidermis disintegrates.”
The genome, sequenced from DNA taken from Ötzi’s pelvis, was more complete than a previous genome put together in 2012, when the field of ancient DNA was still in its infancy, according to the study. The latest research helps clear up a puzzle in Oatsi’s ancestry, Philo said.
“The use of new methods makes Ötzi a scientific gift that keeps on giving,” Bilo added.
The new study suggests that this initial result may be due to contamination by modern human DNA.
“Advances in sequencing technologies allowed us to generate a high-coverage genome of Eismann, which allowed us to obtain more accurate results,” Zink said.
South Tyrol Archaeological Museum/Dario Frasson
This is where Ötzi found it in the Italian Alps.
The gene also appeared to rule out a previously proposed genetic link between Ötzi and present-day Sardinians.
When the researchers of the new study compared Ötzi’s genome to other ancient humans, they found that he had much in common with early Anatolian farmers – from what is now Turkey – who had little contact with his European hunter-gatherer contemporaries.
“It doesn’t completely change our knowledge of the Snowman, but it does clarify some things,” Zink explained. “This shows that Iceman lived in a largely isolated area with limited contact with other populations and low gene flow from hunter-gatherer-ancestral-related populations.”
Almost every part of Ötzi and his belongings has been analyzed, painting an intimate picture of life 5,300 years ago.
Stomach contents Gave information about his last meal Where did he come from? His weapons revealed that he was right-handedAnd gave his clothes A rare glimpse of what ancient people actually wore. Zink said the team hopes to find out more details, such as the composition of his microbiome.
Archaeological Museum of South Tyrol/Marian Lafogle
An expert at the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology humidifies the mummy of Ötzi.
This is not the first time a chapter in Ötzi’s fascinating story has been rewritten, Philo said.
At first, Ötzi was thought to have frozen to death, but A A 2001 X-ray revealed the arrowhead On his shoulders, it would have been death. He also suffered a head injury, probably at the same time, and his right hand shows a defensive wound.
“The whole story of the Snowman is intriguing, including the mystery of his violent death … and the question of why he was in the high mountains when he was killed,” Zink said.