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The Nation

The Iceman Eateth: Deer, Goat in His Last Meals

September 17, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Iceman, whose 5,000-year-old frozen mummy was discovered in the Alps in 1991, had last meals including venison and wild goat, a team of Italian scientists reports.

The researchers also joined the speculation over his death, suggesting that he may have been killed in a dispute among hunters.

"We have analyzed the intestinal content and found compelling evidence that the Iceman was a high-ranked hunter," said Franco Rollo of the University of Camerino.

The Iceman, also known as Oetzi, had an empty stomach at the time of death, researchers found. But by analyzing the contents of his intestines, the team was able to report on his final two meals.

Their study appears in today's issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Oetzi's body was found frozen in a mountain area, and pollen on the body indicated he had passed through a coniferous woodland on the way there, researchers said.

During that trip, he apparently ate the first of the two meals analyzed. That included meat from an ibex, a type of wild goat once common in the Alps, plus cereal grains and some type of plant food.

That was followed by a final meal that included meat from a red deer and, possibly, more grains, the team said.

Although other early people included in their diets rabbit, squirrel and even pack rat, Oetzi's differed.

"We think, in this view, that it is somehow remarkable that Oetzi obtained his animal proteins from big game only. It adds to the idea that he occupied an elevated social position," Rollo said.

Oetzi's remains are in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. Two years ago, his body was temporarily thawed for researchers to take samples to study.

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