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The Iceman's Last Meal

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA—Less than 2 hours before he hiked his last steps in the Tyrolean Alps 5000 years ago, Ötzi the Iceman fueled up on a last meal of ibex meat. That was the conclusion of a talk here last week at the 7th World Congress on Mummy Studies, during which researchers—armed with Ötzi's newly sequenced genome and a detailed dental analysis—also concluded that the Iceman had brown eyes and probably wasn't much of a tooth brusher.

The Iceman, discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991 some 5200 years after his death, has been a gold mine of information about Neolithic life, as researchers have extensively studied his gear—copper ax, hide and leather clothing, and accessories—and his body. Previous research on the Iceman's meals focused on fecal material removed from his bowels. The contents showed that he dined on red deer meat and possibly cereal some 4 hours before his death.

But a team led by microbiologist Frank Maixner of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, recently reexamined computed tomography scans taken in 2005 and spotted, for the first time, the Iceman's stomach. As the researchers reported at the meeting, the organ had moved upward to an unusual position, and it looked full. When they took a sample of the stomach contents and sequenced the DNA of the animal fibers they found, they discovered that Ötzi, just 30 to 120 minutes before his death, had dined on the meat of an Alpine ibex, an animal that frequents high elevations and whose body parts were once thought to possess medicinal qualities.
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TAGGED: GENETICS, PALEONTOLOGY


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