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tzis Last Days: Glacier Man May Have Been Attacked Twice
February 4, 2009
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen (LMU)
Another chapter in a murder case over 5000 years old. New investigations by an LMU research team working together
with a Bolzano colleague reconstructed the chronology of the injuries that tzi, the glacier man preserved as a frozen
mummy, received in his last days. It turns out, for example, that he did in fact only survive the arrow wound in his back
for a very short time a few minutes to a number of hours, but no more and also definitely received a blow to the back
with a blunt object only shortly before his death.
In contrast, the cut wound on his hand is some days older. We are now able to make the first assertions as to the age
and chronology of the injuries, reports Professor Andreas Nerlich, who led the study. It is now clear that tzi endured
at least two injuring events in his last days, which may imply two separate attacks. Although the ice mummy has
already been studied at great length, there are still new results to be gleaned. The crime surrounding tzi is as thrilling
as ever!"
It is the oldest ice mummy ever found. tzi, the man from the Neolithic Age, is giving science critical information about
life more than 5000 years ago, not least from his equipment. His copper axe, for example, reveals that metalworking
was already much more advanced in that era than was previously assumed. Yet tzis body, too, gives us many details
as to his diet, state of health and not least to his murder.
Some time ago, we detected a deep cut wound on tzis hand that he must have survived for at least a couple of days,
says Nerlich, head of the Institute of Pathology at Municipal Hospital Munich-Bogenhausen and member of the Medical
Faculty of LMU. Another team at about the same time found an arrow tip in tzis left armpit. The shaft of the arrow
was missing, but there is an entry wound on the back. It is probable, in that case, that the man died of internal bleeding
because the arrow hit a main artery. What was unclear, however, was the age and exact chronology of the injuries.
Now, Nerlich has reconstructed the missing chronology while working together with LMU forensic scientist Dr. Oliver
Peschel and Dr. Eduard Egarter-Vigl, head of the Institute for Pathology in Bolzano. According to the new information,
tzi did in fact only survive the arrow wound for a very short period of time, of no more than a few hours. A few
centimeters below the entry wound they detected an additional small discoloration of the skin, which was probably
caused by a blow from a blunt object. In both cases, the researchers, using new immunohistochemical detection
methods, managed to detect very briefly survived, yet unequivocally fatal bleeding.
Above the spine are more discolorations that are not associated with bleeding. They probably occurred after the mans
death, due to his interment, for example. tzi had only shortly survived the arrow wound and the blow on the back,
Nerlich summarizes. At least a couple of days before his death, however, he sustained a severe cut wound on his right
hand. Over several days, then, tzi suffered at least two injuring events which could point towards two separate
attacks.
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The above story is based on materials provided by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet Muenchen (LMU). Note:
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Journal Reference:
1. Nerlich et al. New evidence for tzis final trauma. Intensive Care Medicine, January 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s00134-
009-1409-4
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Springer Science+Business Media. "Iceman Oetzi's Last Supper." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 December 2008.
<www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/12/081201101700.htm>.
Iceman Oetzi's Last Supper
December 2, 2008
Springer Science+Business Media
What we eat can say a lot about us - where we live, how we live and eventually even when we lived. From the analysis of
the intestinal contents of the 5,200-year-old Iceman from the Eastern Alps, Professor James Dickson from the University
of Glasgow in the UK and his team have shed some light on the mummy's lifestyle and some of the events leading up to
his death.
By identifying six different mosses in his alimentary tract, they suggest that the Iceman may have travelled, injured
himself and dressed his wounds.
The Iceman is the first glacier mummy to have fragments of mosses in his intestine. This is surprising as mosses are
neither palatable nor nutritious and there are few reports of mosses used for internal medical treatments. Rather,
mosses recovered from archaeological sites tend to have been used for stuffing, wiping and wrapping.
Dickson and colleagues studied the moss remains from the intestines of the Iceman on microscope slides, to find out
more about his lifestyle and events during the last few days of his life. Their paper describes in detail the six different
mosses identified and seeks to provide answers to two key questions in each case. Firstly, where did the Iceman come
in contact with each species; secondly, how did each come to enter his alimentary tract.
In particular, the authors of the new article in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany suggest that one type of moss is
likely to have been used to wrap food, another is likely to have been swallowed when the Iceman drank water during the
last few days of his life, and yet another would have been used as a wound dressing. One type of moss in the Iceman's
gut is not known in the region where the mummy was found, implying that the Iceman must have travelled.
Other papers in the same issue of Vegetation History and Archaeobotany look at subfossil caprine dung from the
discovery site of the Iceman, plant economy and village life in Neolithic lake dwellings at the time of the Alpine Iceman,
and the significance of the Tyrolean Iceman for the archaeobotany of Central Europe.
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The above story is based on materials provided by Springer Science+Business Media. Note: Materials may be edited
for content and length.
Journal Reference:
1. Dickson et al. Six mosses from the Tyrolean Icemans alimentary tract and their significance for his
ethnobotany and the events of his last days. Vegetation History and Archaeobotany, 2008; DOI: 10.1007/s00334-
007-0141-7
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Credit: Image courtesy of European Academy of
Bozen/Bolzano
Albert Zink, Head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, EURAC.
A rest, a meal, then death for 5,000-year-old glacier mummy: Scientists
consolidate results of research into tzis state of health and his death
October 25, 2011
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano
There is now broad agreement
on the circumstances of tzi's
death. Around 100 experts on
mummies from nearly every
single continent gathered for
the "2nd Bolzano Mummy
Congress" held at the
European Academy of
Bolzano from the 20th to the
22nd October 2011, with the
aim of discussing any
diseases he might have been
suffering from and the events
surrounding his death. From
the moment of his discovery
20 years ago, tzi -- the
5,000-year-old glacier mummy
-- has been puzzling the
scientific research community,
though little by little he is also
revealing many of his secrets.
There was broad agreement at
the Bolzano Congress about
the last hour of his life. Albert
Zink, Head of the Institute for
Mummy Research at EURAC,
reports as follows about the circumstances of the Iceman's death: "He felt safe enough to take a break, and settled
down to a copious meal. While thus resting, he was attacked, shot with an arrow and left for dead." There was no
evidence pointing to a possible burial as some scientists have suggested in the past. "The position of the mummified
body with his arm pointing obliquely upwards, the lack of any piles of stones or other features which often accompany
burial sites, runs counter to the burial theory," he continues.
But there is still the problem of what was tzi doing up there, at a height of 3,200 metres? At the Bolzano Congress,
the Innsbruck based scientists Andreas Putzer, Daniela Festi and Klaus Oeggl refuted the theory, first put forward in
1996, according to which tzi was a shepherd who had taken his herd to pastures high up in the mountains to graze
during the summer months. According to the latest archaeological and botanical findings, there was no seasonal
migration of cattle during the Chalcolithic period, the Copper Stone Age. The so called transhumance did not start until
around 1500 BC.
tzi was not on the run. On the contrary, between 30 and 120 minutes before his death he had settled down to a hearty
meal, as evidenced by stomach samples investigated by Albert Zink and his team this past summer. Goat meat, grains
of corn, pieces of leaves, apples and flies' wings were clearly discernible under the microscope.
Innsbruck Botanist Klaus Oeggl was able to detect pollen from the Hop-hornbeam in tzi's stomach. Oeggl had, some
time ago, discovered a high concentration of such pollen in tzi's bowels and had concluded that tzi had actually died
in the spring and not, as had been assumed for some time, in the autumn. Since food remains fresher in the stomach
where it only stays two to four hours, the discovery of pollen in this part of the body gives further weight to this theory.
MLA APA Chicago
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. "A rest, a meal, then death for 5,000-year-old glacier mummy: Scientists
consolidate results of research into tzis state of health and his death." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 October
2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111025091533.htm>.
Nanotechnology used on a brain sample at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich was able to confirm a further
assumption: tzi did in fact suffer trauma to his skull and brain. This alone would have been sufficient to cause death,
but was no doubt at least a contributory factor along with his arrow wound. What is still unclear is whether he incurred
the trauma through a fall or a blow to the head.
The majority of the findings are based on the examination of tissue samples from the stomach and the brain taken
endoscopically by a team of scientists from Magdeburg, Bolzano and Munich in November last year. Since then,
scientists from almost all disciplines have been investigating these samples from their own specific scientific angles
using subject-specific methods: medics, nanotechnologists, anthropologists, biochemists, archaeologists and
physicists. There are now over 100 "tzi researchers," and the Bolzano Mummy Congress represents a so far unique
opportunity for them to discuss the present state of research face-to-face at a gathering which was specifically
dedicated to the famous iceman.
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The above story is based on materials provided by European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. Note: Materials may be
edited for content and length.
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Credit: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology,
Photo Ochsenreiter
New reconstruction of the Iceman as presented in the South Tyrolean Archaeology
Museum showing the Iceman with brown eyes based on the genetic analysis.
Initial genetic analysis reveals Iceman tzi predisposed to cardiovascular
disease
February 28, 2012
University of Tbingen
In a paper appearing in Nature
Communications, researchers
report new findings about
physiognomy, ethnic origin
and predisposition towards
illness of the world's oldest
glacier mummy.
Roughly 18 months ago, a
team of scientists succeeded
in decoding the full genome of
tzi, the mummified Iceman,
revealing his entire genetic
make-up. Thus the course was
set for solving further
mysteries surrounding the
world's oldest glacier mummy.
And now the next milestone
has been reached:
researchers from the Institute
for Mummies and the Iceman
at the European Academy of
Bolzano/Bozen (EURAC), and
from the Institutes for Human
Genetics at the University of
Tbingen and Saarland
University have analysed
various aspects of the raw
data gained from the DNA sequencing.
tzi was genetically predisposed to cardiovascular diseases, according to recent studies carried out by the team of
scientists working with Albert Zink and Angela Graefen from Bolzano's EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman,
Carsten Pusch and Nikolaus Blin from the Institute for Human Genetics at the University of Tbingen, along with
Andreas Keller and Eckart Meese from the Institute of Human Genetics at Saarland University. Not only was this
genetic predisposition demonstrable in the 5,000-year-old ice mummy, there was also already a symptom in the form of
arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. And yet, in his lifetime, tzi was not exposed to the risk factors which we
consider today to be the significant triggers of cardiovascular disease. He was not overweight and no stranger to
exercise.
"The evidence that such a genetic predisposition already existed in tzi's lifetime is of huge interest to us. It indicates
that cardiovascular disease is by no means an illness chiefly associated with modern lifestyles. We are now eager to
use these data to help us explore further how these diseases developed," says anthropologist Albert Zink with
bioinformatics expert Andreas Keller.
Apart from this genetic predisposition, the scientists were able to identify traces of bacteria from the genus Borrelia,
which are responsible for causing infections and are transmitted by ticks. Carsten Pusch, who led the genetic
investigations in Tbingen, comments: "This is the oldest evidence for borreliosis (Lyme disease) and proof that this
infection was already present 5,000 years ago."
MLA APA Chicago
University of Tbingen. "Initial genetic analysis reveals Iceman tzi predisposed to cardiovascular disease."
ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120228123847.htm>.
One further aspect which particularly interested the scientists was the Iceman's genetic. They found that tzi belonged
to a particular so-called Y-chromosome haplogroup which is relatively rare in present-day Europe. The findings indicate
that tzi's ancestors had migrated from the Middle East as agriculture and cattle-breeding became more widespread.
Their genetic heritage is most common today in geographically isolated areas and islands such as on Sardinia and
Corsica.
The genetic investigations also revealed a wealth of further information facts about the physical appearance of the
Iceman: he had brown eyes, brown hair, and suffered from lactose intolerance which meant he could not digest milk
products. This finding supports the theory that, despite the increasing spread of agriculture and dairying, lactose
intolerance was still common in tzi's lifetime. The ability to digest milk throughout adulthood developed steadily over
the next millennia alongside the domestication of animals. The full genome sequencing was supported by the National
Geographic Society (USA), by Life Technologies (USA) and Comprehensive Biomarker Center (Germany).
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The above story is based on materials provided by University of Tbingen. Note: Materials may be edited for content
and length.
Journal Reference:
1. Andreas Keller, Angela Graefen, Markus Ball, Mark Matzas, Valesca Boisguerin, Frank Maixner, Petra Leidinger,
Christina Backes, Rabab Khairat, Michael Forster, Bjrn Stade, Andre Franke, Jens Mayer, Jessica Spangler,
Stephen McLaughlin, Minita Shah, Clarence Lee, Timothy T. Harkins, Alexander Sartori, Andres Moreno-Estrada,
Brenna Henn, Martin Sikora, Ornella Semino, Jacques Chiaroni, Siiri Rootsi, Natalie M. Myres, Vicente M. Cabrera,
Peter A. Underhill, Carlos D. Bustamante, Eduard Egarter Vigl, Marco Samadelli, Giovanna Cipollini, Jan Haas, Hugo
Katus, Brian D. O'Connor, Marc R.J. Carlson, Benjamin Meder, Nikolaus Blin, Eckart Meese, Carsten M. Pusch,
Albert Zink. New insights into the Tyrolean Iceman's origin and phenotype as inferred by whole-genome
sequencing. Nature Communications, 2012; 3: 698 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1701
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Credit: Marek Janko, TU Darmstadt
Iceman brain red blood cells.
tzi the Iceman's dark secrets: Protein investigation supports brain
injury theory
June 10, 2013
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano
After decoding the Iceman's
genetic make-up, a research
team from the European
Academy of Bolzano/Bozen
(EURAC), Saarland University,
Kiel University and other
partners has now made
another major breakthrough in
mummy research: using just a
pinhead-sized sample of brain
tissue from the world-famous
glacier corpse, the team was
able to extract and analyse
proteins to further support the
theory that tzi suffered some
form of brain damage in the
final moments of his life.
Two dark coloured areas at the
back of the Iceman's cerebrum
had first been mentioned back
in 2007 during a discussion
about the fracture to his skull.
Scientists surmised from a
CAT scan of his brain that he
had received a blow to the
forehead during his deadly attack that caused his brain to knock against the back of his head, creating dark spots from
the bruising. Till now, this hypothesis had been left unexplored.
In 2010, with the help of computer-controlled endoscopy, two samples of brain tissue the size of a pinhead were
extracted from the glacier mummy. This procedure was carried out via two tiny (previously existing) access holes and
was thus minimally invasive. Microbiologist Frank Maixner (EURAC, Institute for Mummies and the Iceman) and his
fellow scientist Andreas Tholey (Institute for Experimental Medicine, Kiel University) conducted two parallel, independent
studies on the tiny bundles of cells. Tholey's team provided the latest technology used in the study of complex protein
mixtures known as "proteomes." The various analyses were coordinated by Frank Maixner and Andreas Keller.
The protein research revealed a surprising amount of information. Scientists were able to identify numerous brain
proteins, as well as proteins from blood cells. Microscopic investigation also confirmed the presence of astonishingly
well-preserved neural cell structures and clotted blood cells. On the one hand, this led the scientists to conclude that
the recovered samples did indeed come from brain tissue in remarkably good condition (the proteins contained amino
acid sequence features specific to tzi). On the other hand, these blood clots in a corpse almost devoid of blood
provided further evidence that tzi's brain had possibly suffered bruising shortly before his death. Whether this was due
to a blow to the forehead or a fall after being injured by the arrow remains unclear.
The discoveries represent a major breakthrough for the scientists. The research team emphasised that "the use of new
protein-analysis methods has enabled us to pioneer this type of protein investigation on the soft tissue of a mummified
human, extracting from the tiniest sample a vast quantity of data which in the future may well answer many further
questions." While many DNA samples from mummies are difficult or impossible to analyse because of natural biological
MLA APA Chicago
European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. "tzi the Iceman's dark secrets: Protein investigation supports brain injury
theory." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 June 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/06/130610084123.htm>.
decay, one can often still find proteins in tissue samples which allow a closer analysis and provide valuable information,
explained Andreas Tholey: "Proteins are the decisive players in tissues and cells, and they conduct most of the
processes which take place in cells. Identification of the proteins is therefore key to understanding the functional
potential of a particular tissue. DNA is always constant, regardless of from where it originates in the body, whereas
proteins provide precise information about what is happening in specific regions within the body." Protein analysis of
mummified tissue makes an especially valuable contribution to DNA research, Maixner added: "Investigating mummified
tissue can be very frustrating. The samples are often damaged or contaminated and do not necessarily yield results,
even after several attempts and using a variety of investigative methods. When you think that we have succeeded in
identifying actual tissue changes in a human who lived over 5,000 years ago, you can begin to understand how pleased
we are as scientists that we persisted with our research after many unsuccessful attempts. It has definitely proved
worthwhile!"
The results of this joint study are published in the journal Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. Along with a sample
taken from the Icemans stomach content, more than a dozen tissue samples from less well preserved mummies from
all over the world will be submitted to this new protein-based research method and should provide insights which
previously had not been possible.
Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano. Note: Materials may be
edited for content and length.
Journal Reference:
1. Frank Maixner, Thorsten Overath, Dennis Linke, Marek Janko, Gea Guerriero, Bart H. J. Berg, Bjoern Stade, Petra
Leidinger, Christina Backes, Marta Jaremek, Benny Kneissl, Benjamin Meder, Andre Franke, Eduard Egarter-Vigl,
Eckart Meese, Andreas Schwarz, Andreas Tholey, Albert Zink, Andreas Keller. Paleoproteomic study of the
Icemans brain tissue. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 2013; DOI: 10.1007/s00018-013-1360-y
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