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Otzi's last meals: DNA analysis of the intestinal content of the Neolithic glacier mummy from the Alps

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Luca Ermini

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Abstract

Samples of the intestinal content were collected from the ileum and colon of the Neolithic glacier mummy popularly known as the Tyrolean Iceman, or Otzi. DNA was extracted from the samples and PCR amplified, using a variety of primer pairs designed to bind to different genes (mammal mitochondrial 12S ribosomal RNA gene, plant/fungal nuclear 18S ribosomal RNA gene, plant chloroplast ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase large subunit gene). This made it possible to distinguish between animal and plant food residues (macroremains) and pollen (microremains). According to the DNA reconstruction, the man's last meal was composed of red deer (Cervus elaphus) meat, and, possibly, cereals; this meal had been preceded by another one based on ibex (Capra ibex), different species of dicots, and cereals. The DNA spectrum corresponding to pollen residues in the colon, on the other hand, fits with the hypothesis that the last journey of the Neolithic hunter/warrior was made through a subalpine coniferous forest to the site at over 3,200 m above sea level, where his mummified body was to be discovered 5,000 years later.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Rollo F, Ubaldi M, Ermini L, Marota I

Publication type: Article

Journal: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA

Year: 2002

Volume: 99

Issue: 20

Pages: 12594-12599

ISSN (print): 0027-8424

ISSN (electronic): 1091-6490

Publisher: National Academy of Sciences

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.192184599

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.192184599

Notes: Journal Article Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't United States


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