Graphic shows results from study of the stomach content of Oetzi the Iceman.
GN38158

ANTHROPOLOGY

The last supper of Oetzi the Iceman revealed

By Jordi Bou

July 4, 2018 - Scientists have revealed that the last meal of Oetzi the Iceman, the frozen hunter who died 5,300 years ago in the Alps, was well-balanced but also alarmingly high in fat.

After putting the stomach contents through a battery of tests, including DNA matching and microscopic inspections, the researchers found traces of red deer and ibex meat and plenty of ibex fat, ancient einkorn wheat, and traces of toxic fern.

The study, published in Current Biology, gives a rare glimpse into what was on the menu during the Copper Age.

Though the researchers had previously examined Oetzi's intestines, this was the first time they could look into his stomach.

Following Oetzi's death, the organ moved upwards. It was not until 2009, 18 years after his remains were discovered near the Italy-Austria border, that a radiologist detected it behind the rib cage. And it was full. After slowly defrosting the body, the team took samples and rehydrated them.

The high-fat diet may have given the Iceman the energy he needed to survive a long treck at high altitude, says Dr Frank Maixner of the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies in Bolzano, Italy.

The events surrounding Oetzi's death are still debated. His many recent wounds suggest violent conflict and one theory is that Oetzi fled into the mountains while being pursued.

But Maixner argues that the Iceman had eaten supplies of food he had prepared earlier, rather than a fresh kill, indicating that he had planned his final trek.

PUBLISHED: 13/07/2018; STORY: Graphic News; PICTURES: Marco Samadelli/Eurac/South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology via AP, Current Biology, Getty Images, Kenraiz, Frederik Vandaele
Graphic News Standards