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Archaeology: The Iceman’s clothes

Scientific Reports

August 19, 2016

The origins of the Tyrolean Iceman’s clothes and quiver are presented in a paper in Scientific Reports this week. The study suggests that his garments and quiver are made from an assemblage of at least five different species of animal including brown bear for his hat, and a quiver consisting of leather made from roe deer.

The Tyrolean Iceman - a 5,300-year-old mummy, nicknamed Otzi - was discovered in the Italian Otztal Alpes in 1991, and two decades of analysis have provided insights into his ancestry, diet, tools, lifestyle, health and attire. However, despite being relatively well preserved, the species of origin of the majority of Otzi’s clothes are still unclear.

By sequencing the mitochondrial genomes of nine fragments of leather from the Iceman’s clothes and quiver, Niall O’Sullivan and colleagues identified the species of origin for each fragment. The authors identified that the hat and quiver came from wild species - brown bear and roe deer respectively. Whilst previous research has established the Iceman as an agro-pastoralist, the authors suggest that the hat and quiver provide evidence of hunting and trapping of wild animals.

They also found that the coat was a combination of at least four hides from two species: goat and sheep, which suggest a haphazard stitching together of clothing based upon materials that were available. The leggings were composed of goat leather and this result lends support to the idea that Copper Age individuals selected species for specific attributes when manufacturing clothing.

doi: 10.1038/srep31279

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