Social Science

DNA Analysis of a 5,300-year-old Mummy Reveals That We Were Horribly Wrong About His Appearance

DNA Analysis of a 5,300-year-old Mummy Reveals That We Were Horribly Wrong About His Appearance

Pride is a perk. In an archaic world devoid of fundamental security such as water, food, shelter, or reparative legislation, survival required letting go of any ego in order to see the Sunrise the next day.

However, amid times of calm among the small nomadic communities who roamed the Earth throughout the Stone Age, one has to wonder if these ancient people contemplated their legacies; if they had the extravagance of thinking about how and if future generations would remember them.

We’re sure our forefathers would not have predicted the current amount of curiosity and scientific study into their lives thousands of years in the future, whether they thought about it or not. And, after decades of scientific research, it turns out that we still have a slew of euro-centric biases in these areas.

Tzi is a 150-centimetre-tall archaic-era guy. He was hunted down near Austria some 5,300 years ago after chowing down on some ibex. While an arrow in the back took his life, a ridiculously lucky combination of ice, sun, and wind meant that his flawlessly mummified body would leave a legacy greater than any of his unknown assailants.

DNA Analysis of a 5,300-year-old Mummy Reveals That We Were Horribly Wrong About His Appearance

Tzi was discovered face-down in the upper regions of the Tztal Alps by two hikers in 1991, sparking decades of interesting genetic research. The mummified leathery body lacked hair and appeared to have darker skin, features that were strangely overlooked in every creative reconstruction of the iceman.

Most depictions of Tzi showed him with light skin and scraggy (or even gorgeous at times!) brown hair. However, the artists in charge were only working with the information that was available at the time. Early genome sequencing in 2012 revealed that the caveman had pale skin, brown or blue eyes, and a distinct steppe (eastern European-Asian) origin, ancestors of present southern Europeans.

Higher-quality resequencing of Tzi’s genome from his hip bone, on the other hand, presents an altogether different picture. Genetic indicators indicate that the iceman had begun to bald and had considerably darker skin, which would have been more in line with his mummified body.

It turns out that early studies also projected his ancestry wrongly. Tzi, rather than being a steppe ancestor, possessed high levels of DNA that matched Anatolian farmers, and agriculturalists from the territory situated between the Mediterranean and Black Seas.

Anatolians were already prevalent in Europe around the time of Tzi, therefore this ancestry conclusion came as no surprise. However, despite decades of ancient genetics study, this vast rewrite of Tzi’s biography sheds light on the multitude of things to learn and prejudices to undo.