The Iceman Cometh

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A new genetic study on Europe’s oldest mummy dispelled some previous assertions about the appearance and origins of the 5,300-year-old man famously known as “Ötzi the Iceman,” Nature Magazine reported.

Italian hikers first discovered the prehistoric mummy in the Ötztal Alps bordering Austria and Italy in 1991.

A 2012 DNA study on his remains suggested that Ötzi had long hair, pale skin and Eurasian steppe ancestry – from ancient herding people who hailed from eastern Europe and central Asia. The latter finding was surprising because previous research had indicated that steppe people arrived in Europe a millennium after Ötzi’s death.

But some scientists noted that Ötzi’s genome sequencing was not done right, while also pointing out some other discrepancies about his appearance: His mummified body had dark pigmentation and very little hair.

Because DNA analysis has improved since 2012, a research team studied Ötzi’s exposed hip bone and found surprising details about the ancient man who died from an arrow shot.

Ötzi had neither steppe ancestry nor European hunter-gatherer genes. The results showed that he had Anatolian-farmer ancestry, an ancient group that lived between the Mediterranean and Black seas, who are thought to have migrated into Europe and mixed with local hunter-gatherers.

The analysis also revealed that he had more melanin on his skin – thus darker skin – and also carried genetic markers of male-pattern baldness.

The authors explained that the study suggests that Anatolians were already in Europe at the time the iceman was alive.

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