Ice­man’s last meal pro­vides in­sight into Cop­per Age diet

Timeless Travels Magazine - - ARCHAEOLOGICAL NEWS -

Mummy re­searchers have an­a­lysed the stom­ach con­tents of Otzi, the Ice­man, and found new in­sights into nu­tri­tion and food prepa­ra­tion from 5,300 years ago.

His last meal con­sisted of fresh or dried game meat from ibex and red deer, einkorn wheat and traces of toxic bracken. In an in­ter­na­tional study, led by re­searchers at the Eu­rac Re­search cen­tre based in Bozen-Bolzano, sci­en­tists ex­am­ined the stom­ach con­tents for DNA, pro­teins, lipids and car­bo­hy­drates.

The sci­en­tists were par­tic­u­larly sur­prised by the high fat con­tent of the food in the Ice­man’s well-filled stom­ach: “Fat has very dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­is­tics from other sub­stances as it is wa­ter re­pel­lent. This al­lowed us to spot the high fat con­tent with the naked eye,” re­ports Frank Maixner, mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist at Eu­rac Re­search. De­tailed analy­ses of the lipids present then re­vealed that this fat came from an­i­mal meat, more specif­i­cally from the fatty tis­sues of the ibex.

The de­tailed anal­y­sis of the stom­ach con­tents meant that the sci­en­tists could work out how Cop­per Age man pre­pared his food: the ibex meat in the Ice­man’s stom­ach was very well pre­served. The re­searchers were able to see from the stri­ated meat fi­bres that this was mus­cle meat and that it had been air­dried or min­i­mally heated, pre­sum­ably to pre­serve it.

The Ice­man’s re­con­struc­tion by Al­fons & Adrie Ken­nis

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