Oetzi, the "iceman mummy," whose remains were discovered in the Italian Alps over 20 years ago, has just recently been found to contain the oldest blood cells currently known to man.
According to BBC News
, Oetzi's "remarkable preservation" allowed the blood to remain intact, including the blood that resulted from the wounds that ultimately spelled his demise.
"It is just the latest chapter in what could be described as the world's oldest murder mystery," BBC says
The iceman's body was discovered in 1991 by hikers and the corpse had an arrow embedded in its back. This led scientists to conclude that Oetzi died from such wounds, however whether he actually died in the location he was found, or happened to be moved there afterward remains a mystery.
Previously, as National Geographic describes, the remains of Oetzi did not yield any evidence of blood cells in the past. The 5,300-year-old mummy's blood was discovered during a recent investigation of the corpse which revealed, not only his aforementioned back arrow wound but also, one on his right hand, of which The Lancet
first reported back in 2003.
"There were no [blood] traces found, even when they opened some arteries, so it was thought maybe the blood had not preserved and had completely degraded, or that he lost too much blood because of the arrow injury" said Professor Albert Zink
The method used to finally find Oetzi's blood consisted of utilizing a small metal tip only a few atoms across. The movement of the tip was tracked and mapped out onto a screen with incredible 3D resolution. Zink and his team found the "doughnut
"-shaped particles that are red blood cells.
It has also been suggested that Oetzi died quickly, as opposed to the previously thought-of idea he perished days after sustaining his injuries.
"Because fibrin is present in fresh wounds and then degrades, the theory that Oetzi died some days after he had been injured by the arrow, as had once been mooted, can no longer be upheld," Zink explained
The findings have been published in The Journal of Royal Society Interface
, and even suggest help for current forensic science cases.