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For his last meal,
Iceman ate goat
By Alexandra Witze
Outside of the Nancy Grace show, few
people have had their final hours as
poked, prodded and scrutinized as much
as Ötzi, the “Iceman” who died high in
the Italian Alps 5,300 years ago.
Hikers discovered his frozen, mummified body in 1991. Two decades later, scientists have a good idea of what happened
to Ötzi: Fleeing pursuers, he retreated
to the mountains only to be shot in the
back with an arrow. But even today, the
Iceman is still giving up surprises.
New, more detailed radiological images
of the mummy have revealed his stomach
for the first time and shown that he didn’t
die hungry. Within an hour of his murder,
Ötzi ate a big meal mostly of the wild goat
called ibex, reports a team led by Albert
Zink, head of the Institute for Mummies
and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy.
“We now think that he must have
felt quite safe, because otherwise he
wouldn’t have had this big meal,” Zink
says. “This was a really big surprise.” The
work was published online August 17 in
the Journal of Archaeological Science.
The Iceman may have eaten meat fairly
regularly, the scientists suggest; the new
scans also uncovered three gallstones, a
sign that his diet could have been richer
in animal products than researchers
thought. And newfound signs of heavy
strain in Ötzi’s knees may mean he walked
a lot in mountainous terrain — as opposed
to being a valley dweller who wandered
up high just before his death.
In life, Ötzi was a brown-eyed, long-
haired man in his mid-40s who stood
5 feet 3 inches tall, average height for the
Copper Age. In death, he became one of
the world’s best-preserved mummies,
thanks to the ice that encased him soon
tents. The Iceman’s last several meals
contained a mix of meat, vegetables and
grains, with more meat in his final meal.
Two decades after the Iceman’s discovery, scientists have only just found the
stomach of the 5,300-year-old mummy. Many of his internal organs have shrunk
and moved from their original positions.