A new study of ancient DNA extracted from Ötzi’s bones has helped scientists reveal his true form. An analysis of its genetic makeup showed that the 5,300-year-old mummy had dark skin, dark eyes, and was likely bald. This is in contrast to Ötzi’s reconstruction, which shows a pale-skinned man with thick hair and a beard. “His skin used to darken during the mummification process,” said Albert Zink, director of the Mummy Research Institute at Eurac Research, a Bolzano-based private research center.
“It appears that the dark skin color of the mummy is quite close to the skin color of the Iceman in (his) life,” said Zink, co-author of the study, published Wednesday in the scientific journal Cell Genomics. It is not surprising that Ötzi had dark skin, the scientist said, noting that many Europeans at the time likely had darker skin pigmentation than many in the modern Old World. “It appears that the iceman was still consuming quite a bit of meat, which was also confirmed by our analysis of his stomach showing the presence of ibex and deer meat,” he added.
When the researchers examined Ötzi’s genome with the genomes of other ancient peoples, they found that it had more in common with the early Anatolian farmers of present-day Turkey, who had little contact with their mostly hunter-gatherer European contemporaries. “This shows that Iceman most likely lived in a relatively isolated area with limited contact with other populations and low gene flow from populations associated with hunter-gatherer ancestors,” the scientists conclude. Ötzi was originally thought to have frozen to death, but a 2001 X-ray revealed an arrowhead in his shoulder, which could have been fatal. He also had a head wound, possibly received at the same time, and a defensive wound is visible on his right arm.