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Palaeontology

Otzi the Iceman yields world's oldest blood

By T.K. Randall
May 6, 2015 · Comment icon 24 comments



A reconstruction of what Otzi might have looked like when he was alive. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Thilo Parg
Scientists have succeeded in identifying red blood cells inside a man frozen in ice for over 5,000 years.
Discovered in 1991, Europe's oldest known natural mummy was found in the Ötztal Alps between Austria and Italy.

Thought to have been around 45 years old when he died, Otzi appeared to have succumbed to a lethal combination of injuries including an arrow through the shoulder and a blow to the head.

Researchers now believe that the Iceman may have been part of a raiding party that had engaged in a skirmish with a rival tribe.
Up until now his remains had never yielded any traces of blood, leading to the assumption that it had either failed to be preserved in the ice or that it had since degraded over several thousand years.

By using a nanoscopic probe to scan the area around his shoulder injury however researchers in Italy have been able to identify the tell-tale 'doughnut shape' of red blood cells inside Otzi's remains.

The technique also yielded signs of fibrin, a blood-clotting agent, suggesting that the Iceman would have likely succumbed to his injuries very quickly.

"There were still some people arguing that he survived the arrow maybe a few hours or a few days, but this was definitely not true," said study team member Albert Zink.

Source: National Geographic | Comments (24)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #15 Posted by Athena1979 8 years ago
He kind of looks like an old Rick Grimes.
Comment icon #16 Posted by Myles 8 years ago
I saw a documentary about Otzi once and it could be that he left the village one morning but was then followed into the mountains where his pursuers finally got close enough to shoot him in the back with an arrow and then whack him on the head with a club. He might have made some enemies down in that village. Perhaps he was a very bad man. Banished from the village for the killing and raping he had done. Finally he was hunted and executed.
Comment icon #17 Posted by moon tide 8 years ago
Perhaps he was a very bad man. Banished from the village for the killing and raping he had done. Finally he was hunted and executed. I just watched a doco about Otzi and going by the copper axe he had in his possession, he was actually an upstanding powerful man in his clan. I think it was an assassination by a rival to remove Otzi from power but it was a controversial death because the killer removed the arrow from Otzi's shoulder blade and didn't take the copper axe - both as means to protect his own identity as the killer, not to mention choosing the most remote location to kill him, where ... [More]
Comment icon #18 Posted by Zero Fox FK 8 years ago
I saw a Documentary where they took blood from a prehistoric Mosquito and created Dinosaurs. They should do that with this guy and then we can study him...
Comment icon #19 Posted by Bavarian Raven 8 years ago
I just watched a doco about Otzi and going by the copper axe he had in his possession, he was actually an upstanding powerful man in his clan. I think it was an assassination by a rival to remove Otzi from power but it was a controversial death because the killer removed the arrow from Otzi's shoulder blade and didn't take the copper axe - both as means to protect his own identity as the killer, not to mention choosing the most remote location to kill him, where his body would never be found. There are other theories and some evidence which deepens the whole mystery but personally, I think he ... [More]
Comment icon #20 Posted by Myles 8 years ago
The theory I like was that his village was sacked and he was fleeing. Apparently they have found traces if blood from two or three different persons on his cloak, indicating he had been in a skirmish or the such. If only he could speak ... Maybe he was the one doing the killing I saw a Documentary where they took blood from a prehistoric Mosquito and created Dinosaurs. They should do that with this guy and then we can study him... Tell me you are not talking about Jurassic Park.
Comment icon #21 Posted by Bavarian Raven 8 years ago
@ Myles. I doubt he was one of the instigators. Considering his bow was not even usable, let alive finished. Seemed more like he was fleeing inho
Comment icon #22 Posted by Myles 8 years ago
@ Myles. I doubt he was one of the instigators. Considering his bow was not even usable, let alive finished. Seemed more like he was fleeing inho You might be right. Really at this point it could be any number of things.
Comment icon #23 Posted by Bavarian Raven 8 years ago
You might be right. Really at this point it could be any number of things. True. I should make a story about him lol
Comment icon #24 Posted by TripGun 8 years ago
That is Chris Christopherson. Convoy!


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