Genomic analysis reveals new appearance and ancestry for Neolithic Iceman Ötzi

The world’s oldest glacier mummy, nicknamed ‘Ötzi’, may not be the hirsute man we first thought he was. 

Researchers have re-examined the genomic history of the neolithic Iceman, revealing a different appearance and ancestry than previously thought.

Named after the Ötztal Alps in Italy, where the mummy’s remains were found, radiocarbon dating shows Ötzi lived during the Copper Age, around 3350 – 3120 BCE.

Initial analysis in 2012 had detected traces of Steppe Herders from Eastern Europe in the mummy’s ancestry. 

However updated analysis of a high-quality genome using new DNA sequencing technologies shows Ötzi has more in common with early Anatolian farmers, carrying more than 92% Anatolian ancestry.

The results are published in Cell Genomics.

The paper says inaccuracy in earlier results can be explained by contamination of the original sample with DNA from present-day humans.

Previous reconstructions of the Iceman depict Ötzi as light-skinned, light-haired and hairy.

“The genome analysis revealed phenotypic traits such as high skin pigmentation, dark eye colour, and male pattern baldness that are in stark contrast to the previous reconstructions that show a light skinned, light eyed, and quite hairy male,” says Johannes Krause from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany. 

It was previously thought the mummy’s skin had darkened during preservation in the ice, but the new findings bring Ötzi’s appearance a lot closer to the mummy.

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