The origins of Ötzi's clothes are deciphered

"Eismumie" wore a bearskin hat, goatskin trousers, and a reindeer hide

Ötzi's life and death is quite a bit bkeannt, but what made his various garments is still debatable. © Thilo Parg / Wikimedia, CC-by-sa 3.0
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A wild mix: researchers have discovered which leather made the clothing and equipment of "Ötzi". The "man from the ice" used therefore both wild animals and domesticated species as material suppliers. This shows isolated DNA from the found pieces. The cap is made of bearskin and the quiver is made of rawhide. Pants, jacket and shoe straps, on the other hand, come from goats, sheep and cattle, as the researchers report in the scientific journal "Scientific Reports".

The glacier mummy "Ötzi" discovered in the Ötztal Alps is probably the best studied prehistoric European at all. Analyzes of its 5, 300-year-old ice-conserved remains have already revealed that Ötzi was tattooed, had no milk, had bad teeth, and possibly had a peptic ulcer. Also his origin and the circumstances of his death are known today.

Origin of clothing unclear

Largely mysterious, however, remained the origin of Ötzi's clothing and equipment. Because most leather and fabric parts are too decomposed to recognize typical structural features by microscope. The chemical analysis of proteins in these materials also yielded contradictory results.

Niall O'Sullivan from the European Academy of Bolzano (EURAC) and his colleagues have now succeeded in gaining animal genetic material from the 5, 300-year-old leather scraps. For her study, they took samples of Ötzis jacket, pants and shoes, and from his cap and the quiver in which he wore his arrows. Using state-of-the-art genetic analysis methods, they have isolated the mitochondrial DNA of these leathers and compared them with those of today's living animals.

Replicas of tzi's clothing leftovers. The leather parts have been analyzed by researchers. Institute for Mummies and the Iceman

Leather of five species

The result: The leather for the clothing and equipment of the ice man came from at least five different species. "The jacket alone was a combination of four different dogs and two species: sheep and goat, " the researchers report. The piece of clothing consisting of light and dark parts of the fur must have been made up of various remnants at the time or had been patched several times. display

On the other hand, the leggings of the ice man were a "cast": they are made entirely of the leather of domesticated goats. This result contradicts that of previous protein analyzes that revealed a sheepskin patchwork. For the ice-loincloth of the ice-man, however, the findings are the same: he was made of sheepskin.

Targeted selection of materials

Also made by a domesticated animal tzi's shoe straps: They were made of cowhide, as the genetic analysis revealed. "Thus, the majority of the leather used by domesticated ungulates, " say the researchers. This fits well with the way of life of the former alpine inhabitants as livestock breeders and farmers.

The use of different types of leather in turn speaks in the opinion of the scientists that the alpine dwellers of the Copper Age for certain garments specifically selected the types of leather that brought the desired properties. For example, goatskin was particularly supple, and cowhide was very stable.

The K cher (center) consists of Rehleder, as the gene analysis showed. Institute for Mummies and the Iceman

Copper Age farmers also hunted wild animals

However, tzis K che and K cher fall out of the ordinary. Because they were both made of the fur and leather of wild animals: The M bestehttze consists of the coat of a brown bear, the jars of Rehleder, as the analysis showed. The latter is the first evidence for a material of this species in tzis equipment, the researchers said.

"Although tzi was a farmer, Hut and K cher prove that these people also hunted and captured wild animals, " O'Sullivan and his colleagues say. This fits a previous findings, after Ötzi must have eaten at some point before his death deer meat and lynx. "The people of the Copper Age used animal resources according to availability, functionality and necessity, " say the researchers. Say: They did not act much differently then we do today. (Scientific Reports, 2016; doi: 10.1038 / srep31279)

(Nature Group, 19.08.2016 - NPO)