18 August 2016 – 3:35 pm
New findings on Ötzi’s equipment and clothing
In the past 25 years of research into Ötzi there have been several attempts to identify the remains of the hide, clearly reflecting the rapid development of scientific techniques in recent decades.
In 1992, for example, Joachim Lange published preliminary findings on his microscopic investigations of Ötzi’s hide remnants. In the same year, Willy Groenmann van Waateringe also carried out microscopic investigations and identified the leather remnants.
Determinations of the animal species based on the surface structure of the leather remnants was followed by an initial attempt to shed light on the matter using scientific methods. In 2012, a Saarbrücken-based research group led by Klaus Hollemeyer identified the animal species based on peptide analysis (PMFS) by determining the keratin and collagen content. Also in 2012, Cristina Olivieri carried out the first genetic investigations (mitochondrial DNA) on small pieces of hide, which, however, could not be assigned to specific pieces of clothing.
Today, a research team at the EURAC Institute for Mummies and the Iceman headed by Niall O’Sullivan has presented new findings from the genetic investigations of several pieces of leather from Ötzi’s artefacts. They analysed nine leather and hide samples and determined their mitochondrial DNA.
– A new finding is that Otzi’s quiver was not made from chamois leather as had previously been assumed, but from deer hide. However, Frank Maixner, a member of the research group, stresses that the finding relates to the sample taken and that the possibility cannot be ruled out that other parts of the quiver were in fact made from chamois leather.
– A sample from the loincloth also indicates that, contrary to previous assumptions, it was made from sheep hide. It had previously been assumed that it was made from goat hide.
– It was also shown that a piece of leather strap from a shoe was of bovine origin.
Besides identifying the animal species, the genetic investigation of the clothing remnants also provided fresh insights into the history of domestication, which had long since developed by the time Ötzi was born over 5000 years ago. The Haplogroups of the domesticated animals identified from the leather remains belong to the European populations that are still widespread across Europe. Ötzi’s cap was made from the hide of a brown bear of Western European lineage.
These findings show that genetic studies of archaeological objects can enhance our knowledge of the past. The project group will present its results at the conference on 25 Years of Research on the Iceman, 19 to 21 September 2016 in Bolzano.