Otzi the Iceman, Europe’s oldest mummy, lay undisturbed for more than 5,000 years — but scientists have new answers about the ancient human’s life and death.
Back in 1991, Otzi the Iceman was unearthed in the Alps by hikers, his frozen body preserved for millennia in its resting place. As research was carried out after the massive anthropological find, it seemed the hikers had uncovered civilization’s first unsolved murder.
It’s still amazing what forensic science can do, and the case of Otzi the Iceman is an awesome illustration of scientific advancement.
LiveScience breaks down what we now not only know about Otzi The Iceman’s death, but his life as well, noting that the pre-historic dude left clues “all contributing to a picture of Ötzi as a 45-year-old, hide-wearing, tattooed agriculturalist who was a native of Central Europe and suffered from heart disease, joint pain, tooth decay and probably Lyme disease before he died.”
One of the key findings of recent research into Otzi’s demise shows Otzi was struck by an arrow immediately prior to his death, and either fell and died or was struck over the head fatally.
Researchers cite a protein called fibrin associated with clotting, one found in Otzi’s body. When we are injured, fibrin is briefly present before dissipating, and the presence of the protein in Otzi the Iceman indicated that whichever injury proved fatal, he was not alive for long after the ostensible attack.
Otzi the Iceman researcher Andreas Tholey, of Kiel University in Germany, explained:
“Proteins are the decisive players in tissues and cells, and they conduct most of the processes which take place in cells … Identification of the proteins is therefore key to understanding the functional potential of a particular tissue.”
“DNA is always constant, regardless of from where it originates in the body, whereas proteins provide precise information about what is happening in specific regions within the body.”
The discovery of Otzi the Iceman’s unhealed injury combined with undigested food discovered in his stomach contents led researchers to the conclusion. In addition to the fatal wounds, Otzi also suffered from tooth decay and even cavities.