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: