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Ötzi the Iceman @ Mummy Tombs

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His Occupation

 

 Above Photo: © South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/A. Ochsenreiter

 

Scientists have wondered what Ötzi's occupation was. 

One way scientists triedto determine what he did was to study the clothes that he wore. The materials that they were made from might suggest an occupation.

For example, if he wore clothing made from domestic animals (cattle, sheep, etc.), this might indicate that he was a herdsman. If he wore clothing made from wild animals, this might indicate that he was more likely a hunter.

Of course, such an indicator is hardly conclusive. And in Ötzi's case, the results were contradictory: earlier studies have suggested that he wore both types of animal skin.

However, more recent research using the mass spectrometer provides evidence that the Iceman might well have been a herdsman. 

For the study published in Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, researchers used hair samples taken from his coat, leggings and shoes (apparently just the uppers). They then analyzed the hair samples for proteins (or more specifically, the "patterns of peptides of fermented proteins") using MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry and compared them to hair samples from various present day animals. According to an article in sciencedaily.com, "They found that Ötzi's coat and leggings were made from sheep's fur, while his moccasins were of cattle origin" [that is, cowhide]. According to the nationalgeographic.com summary of the study, "His moccasins were not made of bearskin, as previously believed. Instead they were ancient cattle skin from the kinds of seasonally migrating animals cared for by herdsmen in the region of the Alps where he was discovered."

The lead researcher, Klaus Hollemeyer of Germany's Saarland University, said ""We found that the hairs came from sheep and cattle, just the types of animals that herdsmen care for during their seasonal migrations." Hollemeyer also told reporters that MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry "was faster and more reliable than methods based on DNA analysis."