Science A new look at Ötzi the Iceman’s DNA reveals new ancestry and other surprises

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Ötzi was balding, dark-skinned and didn’t have ancestors from the Caspian steppe

A new look at the Iceman’s DNA reveals that his ancestors weren’t who scientists previously thought.

In 2012, scientists compiled a complete picture of Ötzi’s genome; it suggested that the frozen mummy found melting out of a glacier in the Tyrolean Alps had ancestors from the Caspian steppe (SN: 2/28/12). But something didn’t add up.

The Iceman is about 5,300 years old. Other people with steppe ancestry didn’t appear in the genetic record of central Europe until about 4,900 years ago. Ötzi “is too old to have that type of ancestry,” says archaeogeneticist Johannes Krause of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. The mummy “was always an outlier.”

Krause and colleagues put together a new genetic instruction book for the Iceman. The old genome was heavily contaminated with modern people’s DNA, the researchers report August 16 in Cell Genomics. The new analysis reveals that “the steppe ancestry is completely gone.”

 
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