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The Iceman Ate Well

Scientists have discovered what the 5,300-year-old Iceman they call Oetzi ate for his last two meals, and they reveal that our Stone Age ancestors were not starving, by any means. Oetzi had venison just before his death, and had earlier eaten cereals, vegetables, and ibex meat. The mummified remains of the Iceman were uncovered by a melting glacier in the Italian Alps in 1991.

At first, no one could figure out exactly how Oetzi died, but a flint arrowhead was recently discovered lodged in his back, along with a deep wound in his right hand, so it?s thought he was murdered or died after a violent fight. The injury to the back of the shoulder indicates he was shot as he fled the confrontation.

His body was discovered by German hikers in the Oetz Valley, which is why he?s called ?Oetzi.? He was still wearing goatskin leggings and a grass cape, and his copper-headed axe and a quiver full of arrows were lying nearby. He wore three layers of garments made from goat, deerskin and bark fiber, as well as shoes and a bearskin hat. This is incredibly valuable information, since scientists have only been able to guess what Stone Age people wore in the past. His body is now kept in cold storage in a museum.

Scientists have discovered that Oetzi was about five feet, 2.5 inches tall, 46 years old, arthritic, and had a case of whipworm at the time of death. High levels of copper and arsenic in his hair indicate he had worked in copper smelting. Pollen from the hophornbeam tree, which flowers in the Alps between March and June, indicates that Oetzi died in the spring or early summer.

Two years ago, his body was briefly defrosted so researchers could analyze his wounds and the contents of his stomach. Franco Rollo examined the DNA from the traces of food in his intestines. "It was very difficult," he says. "The whole thing took us two years. There were only very tiny fragments of DNA and they were very degraded."

Rollo?s team reports that, "According to the present DNA analysis, the last journey of the warrior/hunter was made through a coniferous woodland at an intermediate altitude, where he possibly had a first meal, composed of cereals, other plant food, and ibex meat, and ended with his death in a rocky basin at over 3,200 meters above sea level, not before his having had a further meal based on red deer meat and, possibly, cereals.? Cereal grains found on his garments, as well as inside his colon, contained bran of a primitive type of wheat called Einkorn.

Rollo says, ?We were very impressed by the quality of the meals he had. The diet of people living at this time included rabbit, rats, squirrel?all sorts of things. But the iceman, in his last two meals, had red deer and ibex meat. It was a real medieval banquet!"

Find out the secrets of how ancient people measured time?and how we can live the same way today?from ?Time & Technosphere? by Jose Arguilles, click here.

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