Geneticists Reveal Appearance of Europe's Oldest Ice Mummy During Lifetime
Scientists have unveiled the physical appearance of the Ice Man from the Ötztal Alps, known as Ötzi, believed to be Europe's oldest mummy. He lived during the late Neolithic period, around 3300 BCE. A recent genomic analysis has shown that he had a darker skin tone than contemporary Europeans, along with dark eyes and black hair with a receding hairline.
This update comes from 'The Cell' journal.
Previously, it was assumed that the mummy's skin had darkened due to ice preservation, but it's now likely that what we see is predominantly Ötzi's original skin color," explained co-author of the study, Albert Zink.
Ötzi's genes were first sequenced in 2012. Back then, researchers claimed he had genetic ties to modern-day Sardinians and descended from steppe farmers.
In this new research, no signs of steppe inhabitants' genes were found in the mummy. Researchers note that Ötzi lived and spent his life in present-day South Tyrol in northern Italy, with his ancestors originating from Anatolia and embarking on their migration to Europe around 8,000 years ago.
Evidently, Ötzi lived in a relatively isolated region and had infrequent interactions with other populations.
The 2012 genomic analysis depicted him as fair-skinned with light-colored eyes and hair, quite distinct from the recent findings, which have been enabled by advancements in DNA sequencing technology.
Zink mentioned, "Since then, sequencing technology has advanced, allowing researchers to create a genome with high coverage and more precise analysis. This has provided new insights and corrected previous conclusions."
This research suggests that Ötzi had dark skin during his lifetime. This idea is backed by prior analysis of his skin, which identified brown melanin granules in the deepest layer of his epidermis. These latest findings also counter the previously held belief regarding the origin of the Ice Man.
The 2012 findings pointed to genetic affinities between Ötzi and modern Sardinians, linking his origin to steppe farmers. However, that 2012 sample was contaminated with modern human DNA, possibly skewing the results.
This new research employs a different extraction method, reducing contamination. It reveals that the Ice Man shared a substantial portion of his genes with early Anatolian farmers.
Johannes Krause, co-author of the study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, expressed their surprise at the absence of Eastern European steppe herders' genes. He stated that Ötzi's genetic makeup seemed to have arrived directly from Anatolia, with no intermingling with hunter-gatherer groups.
Researchers underline that Ötzi lived and spent his life in modern South Tyrol, Italy, and his ancestors came from Anatolia, initiating their migration to Europe around 8000 years ago. Ötzi's tribe resided in a relatively isolated territory with limited contact with other populations.
Zink asserted that researchers now possess a better understanding of his origins and that this research has enhanced their knowledge about Ötzi's appearance. He believes this should be considered in future reconstructions.