Scientists discover 5200-year-old iceman's final meal

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Ötzi the Iceman may have died 5200 years ago in the Italian Alps, but scientists are still divining the gustatory secrets of his last minutes. Before kicking the bucket, this Copper Age fellow had chowed down on some ibex.

At the (evocatively named) Seventh World Congress on Mummy Studies, Frank Maixner of Bolzano, Italy's (just as evocatively dubbed) Institute for Mummies and the Iceman presented research concerning Ötzi's diet. Maixner's team discovered the location of the Iceman's stomach for the first time...and subsequently gleaned the Iceman's last repast. Notes Science:

[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 [...]


Additionally, Roger Seiler and Frank Rühli of the University of Zürich's Centre for Evolutionary Medicine found that Ötzi had some heretofore undiscovered dental problems due to munching on (perhaps) some Chalcolithic muesli:

[The] Swiss team created new three-dimensional images of the ancient traveler's dentition. These showed that the Iceman suffered a blunt force trauma to two teeth-possibly a blow to the mouth-at least several days before his death and was plagued by both periodontal disease and cavities. The cavities, Seiler said in his talk, confirm that the Iceman ate a diet abounding in carbohydrates, such as bread or cereal, and reveal that he possessed a "heavy bacterial dose on these teeth."


In non-culinary mummy news coming out of the conference, the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman has mapped the Iceman's entire genome — newsflash: he probably had brown eyes! If only we could all be so lucky to have entire futuristic research institutes devoted to the study of each of our frozen carcasses.

[Photo via Smithsonian]