Wednesday, 02 May, 2012
Ötzi’s blood detected by CeNS researchers
5,000 year old red blood cells discovered - oldest blood known to modern science
His DNA has been decoded; samples from his stomach and intestines have allowed us to reconstruct his very last meal. The circumstances of his violent death appear to have been explained. However, what had, at least thus far, eluded the scientists, was identifying any traces of blood in Ötzi, the 5,000 year old glacier mummy. Examination of his aorta had yielded no results. Yet recently, a team of scientists from Italy and Germany, using nanotechnology, succeeded in locating red blood cells in Ötzi’s wounds, thereby discovering the oldest traces of blood to have been found anywhere in the world.
“Up to now there had been uncertainty about how long blood could survive – let alone what human blood cells from the Chalcolithic period, the Copper Stone Age, might look like.” This is how Albert Zink, Head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy, Bozen-Bolzano (EURAC) explains the starting point for the investigations which he undertook with Marek Janko and Robert Stark, materials scientists at the Center of Smart Interfaces at Darmstadt Technical University. Even in modern forensic medicine it has so far been almost impossible to determine how long a trace of blood had been present at a crime scene. Scientists Zink, Janko and Stark are convinced that the nanotechnological methods which they tested out on Ötzi’s blood to analyse the microstructure of blood cells and minute blood clots might possibly lead to a break-through in this area.