Scientists announced that they have completed the genetic sequencing of Otzi the iceman, discovered by Alpine hikers in 1991, who is believed to have died aged 46, after being shot with an arrow.
A bone sample was extracted from Otzi’s pelvis and the DNA sequenced to create the largest data set to be constructed from an iceman. Scientists hope this will enable them to compare modern human genetics with our ancestors of over 5,000 years ago.
Professor Albert Zink from the Eurac Institute said ‘It tells us a lot about the iceman itself, about his immune system, about how his genetic data is composed. It tells us maybe the diseases that he suffered from, fertility diseases, and it tells us clues about modern times’.
Last week’s announcement was not the first time that scientists have tried to sequence Otzi’s DNA, they tried in the mid-1990s, but the technology was too primitive to analyse damaged DNA samples. Then in 2000, scientists extracted DNA from his intestines, and identified that the iceman belonged to subhaplogroup K1, meaning he shares a common ancestor with at least 8% of modern Europeans.
Three groups were involved in the project to map Otzi’s entire genetic make-up, the EURAC Institute for Mummies (a pan-European organisation), the Institute of Human Genetics at the University of Tübingen in Austria, and the biotechnology firm Febit in Heidelberg, Germany.