Mosses Expand the Story of Ötzi the Iceman’s Final Journey
by Jason Daley/Smithsonian.com
In 1991, a hiker discovered the mummified, 5,300-year-old body of a man who had died in the Ötzal Alps along the border of Austria and Italy. Nicknamed Ötzi, the frozen corpse was so well-preserved that its injuries and stomach contents have helped researchers reconstruct the story of his last days in the mountains. Now, a new study of the mosses and liverworts found inside his body and near his corpse are telling us even more about this Copper Age man’s final days.
When Ötzi’s body was removed from the ice, researchers recovered thousands of scraps of moss and liverworts, a group known as bryophytes, from the area where he rested. Other bits of moss were found inside of him. For a new paper in the journal PLOS One, James Dickson of the University of Glasgow and his colleagues decided to identify the plants found in the mountain ice to see what they reveal about Ötzi.
Surprisingly, the team identified 75 different species of bryophytes, including 10 types of liverworts, according to a press release. Only about 30 percent, just 23 species, are native to the alpine region where the body was recovered, meaning the majority of the plants were transported to the site from elsewhere.