Few of our ancestors have been so thoroughly poked and prodded as Neolithic Tyrolean Iceman “Ötzi,” discovered melting out of an Alpine glacier in 1991. Researchers have probed his stomach and bowels for traces of his last meal and analyzed his teeth for cavities. Now, an international team has sequenced his entire genome, and it turns out Ötzi still has some surprises in store.
Earlier computer scans had revealed Ötzi’s severe arteriosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries. But the new analysis shows that Ötzi had a genetic predisposition to the condition, despite the fact that as a hunter-gatherer he had none of what are currently believed to be the relevant risk factors, such as being overweight, getting too little exercise, and smoking or drinking. “This new data suggests that we might be less able to prevent arteriosclerosis than we believed,” notes cardiologist and mummy expert Gregory Thomas of the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the new work.