Oetzi Revisited Again


snowy mountains

Every few years, scientists studying the Iceman mummy, Ötzi, learn more about his life 5,000 years ago.  This time his DNA is telling us about his ancestry and illnesses. Ötzi is one of the oldest human glacier mummies who lived during the Copper Age in the Italian Alps. He’s older than the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge.  Hikers found his body in the early nineties. When they analyzed his DNA ten years ago, they thought he had pale skin and brown eyes and that he was related to present-day Sardinians. That’s the largest island off Italy.   

His genome also suggested steppe ancestry which are ancient herding people from eastern Europe.  But that didn’t make sense since they may not have arrived in Europe until a thousand years after Ötzi died. Now, advances in DNA technology tell us Ötzi is related to farmers in Turkey who migrated to Europe around seven thousand BCE. Then they mixed with the local hunter-gatherer populations.  However, Ötzi’s DNA did not carry much hunter-gatherer DNA which suggests he lived among an isolated Alpine population.   

The DNA markers for skin pigment suggest that Ötzi had much more melanin in his skin making him darker than first thought.  He also carried genetic markers for dark hair, blood type O, susceptibility to type 2 diabetes, and obesity-related metabolic syndrome.  

We’ve been writing about Ötzi for so long, I feel I must go see him. Norbert – you may have a date in Italy waiting for you…  

More Information

High-coverage genome of the Tyrolean Iceman reveals unusually high Anatolian farmer ancestry
The Tyrolean Iceman is known as one of the oldest human glacier mummies, directly dated to 3350–3120 calibrated BCE. A previously published low-coverage genome provided novel insights into European prehistory, despite high present-day DNA contamination. Here, we generate a high-coverage genome with low contamination (15.3×) to gain further insights into the genetic history and phenotype of this individual.

Iceman in the cold light of day
The discovery of a Neollthlc corpse In an alplne glacier in 1991 attracted widespread attention. What has happened in the eighteen months since then reflects badly on European science.

Ötzi the Iceman has a new look: balding and dark-skinned (nature.com) 
Improved DNA analysis updates thinking on alpine mummy’s skin colour, ancestry and more.