While Ötzi the Iceman’s body was recovered back in 1991 after German tourists spotted the mummy in the Italian Alps, it has only been recently that scientists have been able to learn what the Iceman’s final meal would have been before he was violently murdered around 3,300 BC.
The reason why it has taken so long to analyze Ötzi’s last meal is because scientists had difficulties at first in finding the exact location of the Iceman’s stomach, as Phys.org report. This was primarily due to the mummification process, which caused his stomach to be pushed up much further into his body. However, in 2009 scientists had another perusal of CT scans and were finally able to discover where his stomach had been hiding.
With regard to the new study on Ötzi the Iceman’s diet, Frank Maixner of the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies explained that the Iceman’s stomach was discovered to be in extremely good condition, especially when compared with a lower intestine which had previously been studied.
“The stomach material was, compared to previously analyzed lower intestine samples, extraordinarily well preserved, and it also contained large amounts of unique biomolecules such as lipids, which opened new methodological opportunities to address our questions about Ötzi’s diet.”
Perhaps one of the most exciting aspects about being able to study the Iceman’s stomach is that it gives us a better picture of how humans lived during the Copper Age and what their diet and nutritional habits would have been like.
According to Maixner, Ötzi had eaten a lively mixture of different foods that were quite high in fats in the hours before he died.
“By using a complementary multi-omics approach combined with microscopy, we reconstructed the Iceman’s last meal, showing that he has had a remarkably high proportion of fat in his diet, supplemented with wild meat from ibex and red deer, cereals from einkorn, and with traces of toxic bracken.”
Scientists believe the meat that the Iceman consumed was probably quite fresh, although analysis has shown that it is also possible that the meat could have been dried. As bracken leaves from ferns were also found in Ötzi’s stomach, it is thought that this could have been taken as a medicinal remedy for intestinal issues he may have been facing.
Albert Zink, who also works at the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies, explained that when you consider the brutally cold Alpine region that the Iceman was living in, it makes perfect sense that when his stomach was analyzed, half of it was found to contain adipose fat.
“The high and cold environment is particularly challenging for the human physiology and requires optimal nutrient supply to avoid rapid starvation and energy loss. The Iceman seemed to have been fully aware that fat represents an excellent energy source.”
The new study on the contents of Ötzi the Iceman’s stomach and his final meal has been published in Current Biology.