Iceman’s last meal provides insight into Copper Age diet
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