Scientists Find Living Relatives Of 5,000 Year Old Man Found Frozen In Austria
You may remember several years ago when the body of a man was found in the Austrian Alps, his body frozen in near perfect condition and carrying what must have been the tools and other items of his long gone era. Incredibly, it appears that genetic relatives of this unknown man have been found living in Austria: (Be aware that the link includes a picture of the preserved skeleton that some my find disturbing:
Experts from Innsbruck Medical University compared DNA samples taken from the mummy, nicknamed Otzi, with those taken from 3,700 blood donors in the Tyrol region of Austria and managed to match a particular genetic mutation.
“We found 19 men have the same ancestry as Otzi,” said Walther Parson, the forensic scientist who carried out the study. “These men and the Tyrolean Iceman had the same ancestors.”
The discovery was made during a broader study into determining the origins of the people who now inhabit the Alpine regions. Along with their blood the donors were asked to provide their place of birth and family history, but Mr Parson said that so far they have not been informed of their genetic link to Otzi.
He added that his team had partners in neighbouring Switzerland and Italy looking for the same mutation in their populations.
Preserved in ice, Otzi was found by two German tourists in the Otztal Alps on the Austrian-Italian border in 1991. At first it was thought the corpse was the body of a mountaineer or a soldier from the First World War but Otzi became a scientific sensation when tests revealed he died over 5,000 years ago.
Painstaking research revealed what his last meals were, where he lived and that he was about 45 years old when he met his demise high on the mountain. Scientists believe he died from a blow to the back of the head, prompting speculation that Otzi may have been murdered.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this finding is the extent to which it shows that, for much of our most recent history, humans have stayed fairly close to where their ancestors started out. If one exhumed the remains of people who died at a comparable times in other parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa, it’s quite likely that you’d find a similar phenomenon. Here in the Western Hemisphere it would likely be less true, and now that we live in the far more mobile society we are fast entering the era where someone born and raised in Central Europe within the past century is just as likely to have descendants in the American Mid-West as they are in Austria or Switzerland.