Washington, Sept. 16 (Reuters): “Otzi”, the 5,000-year-old man found frozen in the Tyrolean Alps, ate grains and venison for his least meal and may have been killed by rival hunters, Italian researchers said today.
His second-to-last meal seems to have consisted of grains, salad and ibex meat, the team at Italy’s Universita di Camerino reported.
The report paints a vivid picture of the stone-age traveller’s last days and may cast light on who he was and how he died, the researchers, led by Franco Rollo, wrote in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
They analysed the contents of his large and small intestine and found small pieces of muscle from a red deer and residues of grains.
They also found pollen, which suggests the Tyrolean Iceman, nicknamed Otzi, spent time in a forest before he died.
Otzi was found in the Italian Alps in 1991. Scientists were thrilled to find he had remained frozen, and thus almost perfectly preserved, for more than 5,000 years.
He wore clothing made from leather and grasses and carried a copper ax, a bow and arrows. Speculation immediately began about who he was and why he died where he did, but it was hard to do too much checking without damaging his body.
Later, an arrowhead was found in his left shoulder, suggesting Otzi did not simply freeze to death while climbing the high mountains.
“On September 25, 2000, the corpse, presently kept in cold storage at the South Tyrol Archeological Museum in Bolzano, Italy, was fully defrosted for the first time,” the researchers wrote.
Rollo’s team sampled the contents of Otzi’s intestines, looked at the contents microscopically, teased out large bits of muscle fiber and pieces of undigested food, and then ran a DNA analysis.