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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Oct 1;99(20):12594-9. Epub 2002 Sep 20.

Otzi's last meals: DNA analysis of the intestinal content of the Neolithic glacier mummy from the Alps.

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  • 1Laboratorio di Archeo-Antropologia molecolare/DNA antico, Università di Camerino, I-62032 Camerino, Italy.


Samples of the intestinal content were collected from the ileum and colon of the Neolithic glacier mummy popularly known as the Tyrolean Iceman, or Otzi. DNA was extracted from the samples and PCR amplified, using a variety of primer pairs designed to bind to different genes (mammal mitochondrial 12S ribosomal RNA gene, plant/fungal nuclear 18S ribosomal RNA gene, plant chloroplast ribulose bisphosphate carboxylase large subunit gene). This made it possible to distinguish between animal and plant food residues (macroremains) and pollen (microremains). According to the DNA reconstruction, the man's last meal was composed of red deer (Cervus elaphus) meat, and, possibly, cereals; this meal had been preceded by another one based on ibex (Capra ibex), different species of dicots, and cereals. The DNA spectrum corresponding to pollen residues in the colon, on the other hand, fits with the hypothesis that the last journey of the Neolithic hunter/warrior was made through a subalpine coniferous forest to the site at over 3,200 m above sea level, where his mummified body was to be discovered 5,000 years later.

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