Last meal of world’s oldest mummy revealed
Scientists have discovered the last meal eaten by a frozen hunter who died 5,300 years ago in the Alps.
The stomach contents of the world's oldest mummy, known as Otzi the Iceman, provide a glimpse of what ancient Europeans ate more than five millennia ago, researchers said.
The stomach contained the fat and meat of a wild goat, red deer meat and wholewheat seeds, the journal Current Biology said.
Traces of fern leaves and spores were also discovered in Otzi's stomach.
Scientists say he may have swallowed the plant unintentionally or as a medicine for parasites that were previously found in his gut.
Lead author and microbiologist at the Institute for Mummy Studies in Bolzano, Italy, Frank Maixner said: "It was very impressive. We could see chunks and pieces of food with the naked eye."
Although researchers had previously examined Otzi's intestines, this was the first time they could look into his stomach because following his death, the organ moved upwards.
It was not until 2009, 18 years after his remains were discovered near the Italy-Austria border, that a radiologist detected it behind the rib cage.
After defrosting the body, the team took samples and rehydrated them.
Almost half the stomach contents were identified as the body fat of an ibex – a wild goat that still lives in the Alps.
Mr Maixner said: "It's a harsh environment. They had to be prepared. They had to have food that gave them the necessary energy to survive."
Albina Hulda Palsdottir, an archaeozoologist from the University of Oslo, believes the findings are very valuable.
She said: "They're trying to use all the methods in the toolbox to answer this really important question of what people were really eating back then."
The research team are now hoping to reconstruct the composition of bacteria and other micro-organisms that lived in the Iceman's gut to see how it differs from what modern people show.
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Otzi was discovered in 1991 in the Italian Schnal Valley.
Based on three-dimensional images of the mummy's skeleton, a model of how Otzi would look was created by experts.