Otzi the Iceman has 19 living relatives: Could you be one of them?

Nineteen men living in the Alpine regions of Italy and Austria are related to Otzi, the 5,000 year old mummy found by German tourists on the border between the two nations back in 1991, DNA analysis conducted by researchers from Innsbruck Medical University has revealed.

According to LiveScience and The Telegraph, scientists compared samples taken from Otzi with DNA obtained from 3,700 blood donors, and found a match in a specific genetic mutation that all 20 individuals shared with a common ancestor who lived between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago.

“In that sense, those 19 are closer related to the Iceman than other individuals,” Walther Parson, a scientist at the Institute of Legal Medicine in Austria and co-author of a study published in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics, told LiveScience. “These data demonstrate that DNA can also be used to trace relatives much further back in time.”

The discovery was reportedly made during a broader study into determining the origins of those currently living in the Alpine region. Donors provided blood samples, family history, and place of birth, The Telegraph said. Relatives of the iceman have not yet been told of the genetic link.

Shared lineage discovered in the male chromosomes

Otzi has been extensively researched to the point where scientists have been able to determine where he lived, how old he was when he died, and even the contents of his last meal. He is believed to have been 45 years old when he was died due to a blow to the back of the head, leading some to speculate that he was murdered on the mountain.

His clothes and a quiver of arrows were also preserved by the ice, The Telegraph said, providing scientists with a unique opportunity to learn more about his 5,000 year old culture. Parson noted that the search for relatives will now turn to Switzerland and Italy, as he and his colleagues hope to find additional subjects that share a common, distant ancestor with the iceman.

He explained to LiveScience that he analyzed DNA from the Y chromosome—the male chromosome only passed on by the father. They found that Otzi and the 19 other men shared a genetic lineage known as G-L91, and it there was a slight chance that one of the men could be a direct descendant of the several thousand year old mummy.


Feature Image: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology