Otzi’s stomach analysis unveils new information about ancient human migration

Otzi’s stomach analysis unveils new information about ancient human migration

Analysis of microbes extracted from inside of Otzi, a 5,300-year-old mummy, has unveiled not only that the frozen Copper Age mummy died from a stomach bug, but also provided new information about ancient human migration.

Otzi, the Iceman, was discovered in the Alps in 1991. He was killed 5,300 years ago after being struck by an arrow. The research paper published in the journal Science has unveiled that Otzi had a bacterial infection that is commonly found today. The bacterial infection can cause stomach ulcers and gastritis.

The researchers said that their attempt to trace the history of the microbe has led them know that it has close link with the history of human migration. The previous research on the mummy has unveiled that the man was between 40 and 50 years old, had brown eyes and covered in tattoos.

The researchers said that man had died of blood loss after being hit by an arrow in left shoulder. He was having medical problems as well including heel fractures, arthritis and possibly Lyme disease. In the current research, the researchers were able to have samples from the stomach content, some of the intestinal content and from the parts of the stomach wall.

The researchers found the Helicobacter pylori bacteria, which are found in around half of the population today. Initially, the researchers thought that the bacteria were same as found today in Europeans, but that was not the case. It turned out to be a strain that is majorly found in Central and South Asia today.

It suggests that there might have been migration of people from Africa, who were carrying the bacteria in Europe at some point after Otzi’s death. “The recombination of the two types of Helicobacter may have only occurred at some point after Otzi's era, and this shows that the history of settlements in Europe is much more complex than previously assumed”, affirmed the researchers. The researchers add to the growing evidence that Europe has witnessed many migrations.

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