did Ötzi eat on the last day of his life?
A number of studies have been done on
the contents of the Iceman's intestines:
Study of Ötzi's
Researchers at the University of
Glasgow found whipworm parasite eggs in the Iceman's colon. This means
that Ötzi had a fairly severe intestinal disorder which would have
caused diarrhea or possibly dysentery. Barley, meat, and a cereal
grain known as einkorn were also found; these would have comprised his
last meal or meals.
Perhaps the most important finding was
pollen, ingested when he drank water from local streams. These pollens
indicate that he may well have died in late spring or even early
summer, not in the fall (as some researchers had suspected).
Last Meal (9/17/02)
at the University of Camerino in Italy analyzed the preserved contents
of Ötzi's intestines. They found that he had eaten two meals:
>Ötzi first ate the meat of an
ibex (wild goat; Capra ibex) along with some cereal grains
>The pollen found in his
intestines indicates that he hiked through "a coniferous forest
at mid-elevation." This is most likely the site where he ate
his ibex meal.
>At a higher altitude he ate
another meal: red deer (Cervus elaphus) and more grain.
(For information about the final route that Ötzi took, follow
Results of the study were published in The
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
of the Mosses in Ötzi's Intestines (12/1/08)
Professor James Dickson
from the University of Glasgow and other scientists studied the mosses
found in the Iceman's intestines. Altogether they located 36 samples
of six different mosses in five areas of his intestinal tract (the
ileum, three areas of the colon, and the rectum); researchers
concluded that all of the mosses were apparently accidentally
Four of the six mosses are
particularly important, according to the researchers, in terms of
understanding the last days of Ötzi's
life. The four important mosses are:
complanata. (21/36 samples) This fan moss was
found in every sample analyzed by the researchers, leading them to
believe that it was used to wrap
his food. According to their interpretation, the moss was too
prevalent to have been ingested with drinking water. Therefore, they
believe that it was used to wrap at least three of Ötzi's
samples) This rough mat moss was most likely picked up by the
Iceman as he collected the Nekera, since they often grow side
by side on rocks.
samples) This tall turf and large cushion moss was most likely
ingested with some water as he drank from a stream. Since all eight
samples were found only in the Iceman's rectum (and since this moss is
not located in the area where the body was found), researchers believe
that he ingested the moss with some drinking water at least a day
before he died, at a lower altitude.
imbricatum. (1/36 sample) Most
likely used to dress a wound (his hand, perhaps) and then ingested
accidentally (and microscopically) when he ate one of his last meals
(Dickson suggests that the moss could have stuck to dried blood from
the wound on Ötzi's hand), this
moss is found in bogs. Today no bogs can be found within thirty miles
of the Iceman's findspot, leading researchers to conclude that he must
have covered a lot of ground in his
travels. Dickson et al write: "If this is true then the
implication is that either or both of the wounds happened at low to
only moderate altitude but not in lower Schnalstal where no species of
bogmoss is known."
The results of the study
were published in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. An abstract is