Otzi Was A Brown Eyed, Left Handed Farmer

Otzi, the mummified man found in 1991 in the Italian alps has provided a huge amount of information to science for one man, especially one who has been dead for more than 5300 years.  Otzi was killed by an arrow to the back, probably bleeding to death, although maybe not right away.  Based on blood analysis, he may have had companions with him who were also injured.

He was an old man at the time, 45.  Most didn’t survive that long.  Surrounding the mummy was his quiver, copper ax, interpreted as a status symbol, knife and other belongings, which were nearly missed when the body was recovered.  He was dressed in hides from multiple species of animals, sported a bear-skin hat and a woven grass cloak.  He had eaten unleavened bread, fruit and deer meat only a couple of hours before his death.  He had also taken herbal medicine suggesting that perhaps his meal didn’t set too well with him.  He had tattoos which may have been related to a healing ritual since they were on or near body parts which showed wear, knees and ankles, which were probably painful to him.  Hair on his clothes tells us he herded cows, sheep and goats.  He was diminutive compared to today’s people at 5’3″ and 110 pounds.

If you think about it, Europe didn’t have a large population then.  Otzi may be an ancestor of many of us. But then again, maybe not, because genetic analysis tells us that he may have suffered from reduced fertility.  But we could easily still be related in some way, as the population was fairly small and the large population of Europe grew from the founders.  Otzi and his family clearly were founders of the European population.

When Otzi was first discovered, the National Geographic Society did a facial reconstruction of Otzi, depicting him as a robust, healthy relatively young-looking man.  More recent cranial imaging capabilities combined with genetic analysis and other fields of research have shown us that indeed, he wasn’t quite so healthy.  Robust Otzi is shown below.  Perhaps this resembled a younger Otzi.

Otzi, at his death, looked like the more recent reconstruction at the top of this blog.

Most recently, last week, at the American Society of Human Genetics meeting, scientists reported that Otzi was a farmer.  While this may not sound remarkable, it is, just the fact that they can determine this, and what his DNA and other similar DNA reveals about migration and settlement patterns.  It turns out that Otzi most closely resembles people from Sardinia, a large island off the west coast of Italy, not the hunter gatherers in the Alps where he was found.

Isotope analysis of his teeth tell us that Otzi did not grow up in the Alps where he died (red balloon), but south about 50 km near the village of Feldthurns (blue balloon).  But he didn’t grow up in Sardinia (yellow balloon), so that connection is further back in time.

In addition, his DNA also resembled the DNA of the farmers of Bulgaria and Sweden, but again, not the hunter-gatherer population.  Not only does this tell us that Otzi was a farmer, but it tells us how and where the farming population settled, and who they were.


More interesting info here:


Otzi, it appears, was left handed, was probably lactose intolerant and had Lyme disease, making him the earliest known case.  He was also more closely related to Neanderthals than Europeans today.  Today’s Europeans uniformly carry roughly between 2% and 4% Neanderthal ancestry.

Otzi’s mitochondrial DNA line may well be extinct.  If not extinct, then no others have yet been discovered.  He is a subgroup of the K1 lineage, named K1o (that is O for Otzi, not a zero.) His Y-line DNA is haplogroup G2a2b.


National Geographic has funded significant research on Otzi and has provided additional information and reconstruction photos here:




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13 thoughts on “Otzi Was A Brown Eyed, Left Handed Farmer

  1. This is most interesting. Thank you for posting it. My grandfathers DNA is G and probably G2A. I used to be on the G forum, but changes in directors etc. and somehow I got bumped. We have only ever had one match for this line and that person was from a 1870’s adoptee link. I enjoy your post Roberta.

  2. Hello, Roberta, thanks for talking about my famous cousin ! A slight correction; current ISOGG terminology for Otzi’s Y-haplogroup (and mine) is not anymore G2a2b but G2a1b2, while FTDNA still uses the old G2a4. Or you could simply say he is G-L91.

    Also, the way I understood the Hufington Post article, his connection with Sardinia isn’t further back in time, but in his future. He most closely matches today’s Sardinians because that’s where the Neolithic farmers SNPs were retained, not because he has origins from there.

    Well, those are details, and your article is the most complete I have seen to date on the subject, so thanks again !

  3. Your posts are always so interesting. I wait until I have peace and quiet around me so I can concentrate to read your blogs! Thank you so much for sharing.

    Georgia Mathis Cummons

  4. Hi,

    I am also in the K1 haplogroup. I just found that out today with the results of my NatGeo 2.0 results. That is the good news, the bad news is that since I am a female I cannot upload my results to Family tree DNA. That is the reason I took the test so tha I could upload it and I was told that we would be able to upload it. If I had know that then I would ave just done a mtdna test with family tree. So, anyone who is female beware of that. I downloaded my results but unless you are an expert and know how to read the result it will look like greek to you. Boy, that sure is a disappointment!!!!

    • Hello,

      You should contact William Hurst (wrhurst_17@msn.com). He is the administrator of the haplogroup K project in FTDNA and he is a an expert in mtDNA. He will certainly be able to analyse your data and tell you more about your ancestry.
      You can also join the haplogroup K group in facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/2359809881/


      Itaï Perez.

    • The problem is that Nat Geo gives you your haplogroup, and from that you can certainly determine which mutations were the ones that indicated that haplogroup, but you don’t receive any personal mutations. It was never meant to replace the full sequence test at Family Tree DNA. I don’t know yet if there is a way for you to upload your haplogroup information or not, as I haven’t seen any actual results yet. So hold tight for just a bit.

  5. I always enjoy your posts, and learn new things in each.

    For this one on Otzi, I must offer a correction. At 45 he was not yet old. Let’s say the average life expectancy were 45. With the high infant and childhood mortality, to get an average life expectancy of 45, most adults must have lived into old age. Their activity prevented many of the old-age diseases prevalent in the 21st century – little or no heart disease, diabetes, etc.

    The Bible refers to man’s life as “threescore and ten” and was probably a reasonable expectation of someone who lived through childhood.

    Looking into my own ancestry I found only three in the 19th century who didn’t live to 70: two at 67 and one who died in his 50’s from an accident.


    Robert Leopard

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