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The “cold case” of Ötzi the Iceman is one of the most remarkable demonstrations of what modern science can achieve.

A well-preserved, 5,300-year-old mummy unearthed in the Ötztal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border, Ötzi is one of, if not the most extensively studied hominins from the Stone Age. Thanks to today’s technology, researchers have been able to determine how he died (a blow to the head and an arrow to the shoulder, which likely caused him to bleed to death), what he was wearing when he died (a hide coat, a fur hat, skin leggings, and hay-filled shoes), and even his last meal (which included dried, possibly smoked deer meat).

Perhaps most interestingly, though, is the fact that as of October 2013, there were at least 19 men alive in Tyrol, Autria who were related to him.

After studying blood samples from 3,700 male Austrian donors, researchers from the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University determined that 19 of the donors shared a unique genetic mutation with Ötzi. The rare mutation, known as G-L91, is passed on from generation to generation. It is said to have originated in the Middle East, from a group of prehistoric farmers that brought the agricultural practice to Europe.

This evidence suggests that Ötzi and the 19 living donors shared a common ancestor, possibly from 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. However, it’s highly unlikely that the Austrian men are Ötzi’s direct descendants.


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Cover photo: ZME Science/Wikimedia Commons

References

  • http://www.iceman.it/en/the-research/iceman-research-milestones/
  • https://www.livescience.com/40473-otzi-has-19-living-relatives.html
  • https://www.nationalgeographic.com.au/history/5-surprising-facts-about-otzi-the-iceman.aspx
  • https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/iceman-mummy-finds-his-closest-relatives/

Author: Mikael Angelo Francisco

Bitten by the science writing bug, Mikael has years of writing and editorial experience under his belt. As the editor-in-chief of FlipScience, Mikael has sworn to help make science more fun and interesting for geeky readers and casual audiences alike.