A team of Austrian scientists has identified living relatives of Oetzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old body discovered in the Italian Alps in 1991.
The research highlights 19 Tyrolean men, all of whom bear distinct genetic similarities to samples taken from the body of Oetzi (so named because he was discovered in the valley of Oetz).
It is thought that the same genetic mutation that was found in Oetzi’s ancient DNA will also be discovered in the nearby Swiss region of Engadine.
The men have not been informed about their famous heritage and their connection to the Iceman is known only from analysis of their blood after donation. Women were not included in this particular study, as a different procedure would be required to match their samples to Oetzi’s.
The Austrian team has announced that it will be working with Swiss and Italian partners in order to further their research.
Since hikers discovered the body in 1991, Oetzi has been a source of constant fascination to historians, geneticists, archaeologists and interested media outlets. A high level of research has uncovered how Oetzi died, what his last meal consisted of and even what his face might very well have looked like (he had brown eyes). In addition, the Iceman’s entire genome was mapped and published last February.
In life, Oetzi stood at about 5ft 2in, lived to be approximately 46 years old and suffered from (amongst other things) arthritis and a whipworm infestation.
However, the discovery of living relatives to the 5,300-year-old corpse definitely represents a milestone in a case that has been called ‘the world’s oldest murder mystery’ by some.
Since Oetzi’s discovery in 1991, debates have raged about the Iceman’s final moments, there has even been some speculation that he was buried, but why and by whom remains a mystery.
In addition, a court case raged for years between the body’s discoverers and the local authorities, regarding a 25% finders fee that the authorities declined to pay in full. The court case was eventually settled in 2008.
The Iceman has made news in other areas as well; seven people involved in the discovery of Oetzi have died under allegedly ‘mysterious’ circumstances, leading some to speculate as to the existence of a curse.
Last year, Oetzi made the news yet again, as Italian scientists determined that there were red blood cells around Oetzi’s wounds. This was remarkable news as previously no blood was found within the body. These findings made Oetzi’s blood the oldest in the world, but, amazingly, his bloodline continues to this day.