His DNA has been decoded; samples from his stomach and intestines have allowed us to reconstruct his very last meal. The circumstances of his violent death appear to have been explained.
AFM topography image of a red blood cell from the Icemans arrow wound at his back (rainbow colores).
Three dimensional AFM image and spectroscopic scan of a blood clot found in the arrow wound at the Icemans back.
The team of scientists used an atomic force microscope to investigate thin tissue sections from the wound where the arrow entered Ötzi’s back and from the laceration on his right hand. This nanotechnology instrument scans the surface of the tissue sections using a very fine probe. As the probe moves over the surface, sensors measure every tiny deflection of the probe, line by line and point by point, building up a three-dimensional image of the surface. What emerged was an image of red blood cells with the classic “doughnut shape”, exactly as we find them in healthy people today. “To be absolutely sure that we were not dealing with pollen, bacteria or even a negative imprint of a blood cell, but indeed with actual blood cells, we used a second analytical method, the so-called Raman spectroscopy method”, report Marek Janko and Robert Stark, who, with Albert Zink, are also members of the Center for NanoSciences in Munich. In Raman spectroscopy the tissue sample is illuminated by a laser beam and analysis of the spectrum of the scattered light allows one to identify various molecules. According to the scientists, the images derived from this process corresponded to present-day samples of human blood.
Whilst examining the wound at the point where the arrow entered the body, the team of scientists also identified fibrin, a protein involved in the clotting of blood. “Because fibrin is present in fresh wounds and then degrades, the theory that Ötzi died straight after he had been injured by the arrow, as had once been mooted, and not some days after, can no longer be upheld,” explains Albert Zink.
The team has just published the results of this research in the “Journal of the Royal Society Interface”.
Julia Reichert | idw
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