The recent discovery of the oldest microbe Helicobacter pylori in the abdomen of Ötzi the iceman can shed a lot of light on the migration patterns of human beings long ago in history.
H. pylori has been present in human gut for nearly 100,000 years and it’s different variants have the ability to recombine and form hybrids when people stay in contact for a considerable period of time.
Hence, using the variant type of the bacteria, the period in which people interbred and migrated can be understood better than a genomic analysis, say scientists.
Who is Ötzi The Iceman?
A man who lived during the Copper Age was hiking along the glaciers of Ötztal Alps nearly 5300 years ago and his body, as well preserved by ice, was discovered on September 19, 1991, when two German hikers Erika and Helmut Simon were walking through the mountain taking a shortcut, abandoning the regular route at a height of 3210 meters along the Austrian-Italian border.
Misunderstood as the dead body of a mountaineer who had visited the place recently, the body that was frozen below the torso was removed a couple of days later on September 22 and was sent for medical examination with the objects found along with it to Innsbruck.
Konrad Spindler who examined the body dated it back to at least 4000 years on the basis of an axe that was found along with the body.
As the body was found in the Ötztal Alps, he was named as Ötzi, the Ice Man. In fact, Ötzi’s death was not a natural one but was due to an arrow wounding his shoulder. A few speculate that he was killed somewhere and was carried to the spot in the mountain where he was found.
Four separate investigations on the tissues of the body using carbon 14 dating confirmed the date of the iceman to be nearly 5000 years old that is between 3350 and 3100 BC during the copper age.
The body of the iceman has got 61 tattoos etched, all crosses or lines. Tattoos were not made by needles but by rubbing charcoal over fine incisions made in the body.
What is so special about Ötzi?
Such a preserved mummy with clothing and other personal belongings had never been found before anywhere in this world.
Moreover, mummies are found throughout different cultures in which they are preserved as a part of their custom.
The mummies of Pharaohs are not just the examples but also the tradition of preserving dead bodies is a custom in some cultures of Peru, Chile, and Greenland. What makes Ötzi different from them is that they are artificially preserved whereas Ötzi has been preserved naturally in which every cell in the body retains some humidity that is convenient to carry out detailed scientific investigations. Hence Ötzi is called as a wet mummy.
When Ötzi was discovered it became a sensational topic of discussion in media across national boundaries. Even a few claimed that the entire discovery is a conspiracy in which a mummy from Egypt or Peru is implanted in the glaciers of Alps.
The mindless media termed it as Ötzi Curse when some of the people who were involved in recovering Ötzi died due to diseases or some untoward accidents.
Death of Ötzi
There were speculations about how he died.
Winter storm is one speculation and another one portrays him being the victim of a ritual in which he was sacrificed his life.
Ten years after his discovery in 2001, Dr. Egarter Vigl and Dr. Gostner made some important discovery by analyzing the x-ray sheets of the iceman.
They found a wound on his left shoulder pierced by an arrowhead that went deeper to rupture a major blood vessel, which could be the cause of his death. Later, physical examination of the body confirmed the wound.
It was then discovered that he fell down or was attacked very shortly before he died as there was some fracture in the skull along with bleeding at the back of his brain. Thus, it was agreed that his death was not natural or by any ritual, but involved some combat and bloodshed.
The descendants of Ötzi might be still living. DNA study of the Iceman has revealed 19 genetic relatives in the Tyrol region of Austria.
Featured Image Source: National Geographic