Living Relatives of Ötzi the Iceman Mummy Found in Austria

By Breanna Draxler | October 16, 2013 11:52 am
Here the Iceman sits in the laboratory cell of the South Tyrolean Archaeology Museum

Here the Iceman sits in the laboratory cell of the South Tyrolean Archaeology Museum
Image credit: Samadelli Marco/EURAC

Although Ötzi the Iceman has been dead for 5,300 years, his legacy is still kickin’ in newly-found living relatives.

Researchers discovered the family members by performing DNA tests on blood donated by 3,700 people in western Austria, not far from the Alps where Ötzi was found melting out of a glacier in 1991. The results showed 19 of those donors shared a unique genetic mutation with the mummified ice man.

“These men and the Iceman had the same ancestors,” said forensic scientist Walther Parson in his announcement to the Austrian Press Agency.

Chromosomal Clues

Dr. Eduard Egarter-Vigl (left) and Dr. Albert Zink (right) during the Iceman sampling in November 2010.

Researchers take a sample from Iceman’s hip to begin the sequencing process. Image credit: Samadelli Marco/EURAC

Ötzi’s genome was sequenced in its entirety last year using a sample of hip bone. Scientists had used these initial findings to study how he was related to regional ethnic groups, but this time they were interested in narrowing it down by investigating how many individual people sprang from Ötzi’s line.

Since his maternal line is thought to be extinct, researchers looked at DNA from the mummy’s Y chromosome instead—genetic material passed down from father to child. This heritable, unchanging DNA was still found lurking in the genomes of Austrians alive today. Ötzi and his long-lost relatives fall into a rare European haplogroup and sub category (known as G-L91).

Each haplogroup represents an isolated population of ancient people whose unique genetic mutations can tie them to a particular geographical location—the Öztal Alps in this case—and early migratory routes.

Unwanted Inheritance

 The new reconstruction of the Iceman as presented in the South Tyrolean Archaeology Museum showing the Iceman with brown eyes based on the genetic analysis.

This reconstruction of the Iceman shows his brown eyes, among other characteristics, as determined through genetic analysis.
Image credit: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/EURAC/Marco Samadelli-Gregor Staschitz

The scientists have not yet informed the mummy’s relatives of their ancestral connection. But perhaps that’s for the better.

For starters, it could be tough to shoulder the fame of being related to such a renowned mummy. Plus, many of the Neolithic farmer’s traits are less than desirable: he had a genetic predisposition to heart disease, and suffered tooth decay, joint pain and lactose intolerance.

And although it can’t be passed on, there’s a good chance he was suffering from Lyme disease, too. (We won’t even get into inheritance of his striking Neolithic appearance…)

It’s unlikely that these 19 individuals are the only descendants of the Ötzi family. Researchers say they’re now expanding their search for this rare genetic mutation to nearby regions of Italy and Switzerland. One more reason to donate blood, then: do it for the Iceman.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
  • The Sanity Inspector

    I’m married to someone with roots in another continent. I wonder if there is a genetic test we could both take, that would tell us how many generations back we shared a common ancestor.

    • Emkay

      no test needed, it was Lucy, 4 feet tall, in central Africa about 55,000 years ago……

      • Sam Harris

        Wrong time genius Lucy lived over a million years ago.

        • Michael Keener

          Oops, you’re wrong too Dumbazz, it was 3-4 million years ago:
          Answered Most Recently Aquadoc;
          Lucy, the type specimen of Australopithecus afarensis, an early ape-like ancestor of modern humans, lived around 3.2 million years ago, but the evidence in the fossil record indicates the species lived from 3-4 million years ago.

          Ain’t Google great!!

          • Sam Harris

            No I wasn’t I gave an estimate and I was a lot closer than you were, moron!

      • slfheinn

        Out of Africa theory is being disproven more and more these days.

        • Mark Branstner

          No. It’s not.

        • Bonnie Fox

          Out of Africa HAS being proven. It’s all about DNA.

        • Holly Bell

          No ape in me

  • robynozz

    They should tell the relatives. People are interested in their lineage.

    • Heimdall222

      Yeah, but what if their lineage includes a serial pedophilic rapist.

      Is that something “people are interested in”?

      Are you?

      • Dave Parta


        • Heimdall222

          So you’re interested in serial pedophilic rapists who were burned alive when caught.


          No ‘counting for some peoples’ tastes, I guess.

          But at least now we know what you do with your spare time…!

          • Casey Phyle

            Most people would probably want to know. What if there was no serial pedophile rapist in that line? Your dirty mind gives you away, creep.

      • Janet Reedman

        we will ALL have ancestors who were rapists, murderers, thieves etc. All Europeans (for instance, same for other groups) come from the same mere handful of men and women…under ten of each.

      • Lori Willey

        Yes, I would like to know.

  • Matt Kovach

    They should tell the relatives.

    • Heimdall222

      Why do you say that?

  • froggyfrog

    Um, by inheritance of striking neolithic appearance do you mean harriness? There’s nothing wrong or neolithic about hair. Hair is sexy (on men and women)! Also if you really want to find out about your haplogroups you can do that using 23 and Me. It’s pretty cool.

    • Heimdall222

      Are you having difficulties being, ummm… green…?

      • Michael Keener


    • Emkay

      its hairiness….

      • cletus

        It’s it’s

        • Emkay

          it’s is possessive, DUMBASS! its is not….

      • kurtdriver

        It’s, since you’re the spelling police, you should get that right.:)

    • Janet Reedman

      I don’t get the article’s comment on his looks. There is nothing odd about his appearance…only that in his era, he was considered an old man, and that is what you see. Neolithic people ARE us, and no different to us in any way…tall ones, small ones, handsome ones, plain ones. And they may have suffered aching teeth but in general they have LESS tooth loss and often straighter bridges than we do. The facial reconstruction of the neolithic man from a barrow near Stonehenge is quite handsome, and a woman from Malta’s reconstruction is attractive as well.

  • e2carden

    I’m a confirmed L91. I would love to participate in further testing, my lineage is rather unique.

    • Heimdall222

      How did you determine that you are are a G-L91?

  • Pat Bradshaw

    II would think relatives of Otzy would be interested in their ancestor. How their appearance has changed over 5,300 years, know that their ancestor was from the same area they still live. I know I would love to have the chance of knowing an ancestor from 5,300 years ago.

    • mharper42

      Reminiscent of the bog mummy Cheddar Man in the UK, where DNA identified several living relatives still inhabiting the same area. See: en dot wikipedia dot org / wiki / Cheddar_Man

  • Salihu

    When is this DNA thing coming to Africa? Some of us need to trace our roots and find our lost relations.

    • Heimdall222

      That sounds good, of course.

      But why do you believe that your lost relations want to find…you?

      • Esther Medina

        Troll much?

      • Salihu

        In Africa family ties are very strong. I think if they ever exist, they would be as anxious as I am. Nevertheless, I want to see and know them irrespective of whatever their mindset is about me and my siblings.

        • Emkay

          you said “I think if they ever exist, they would be as anxious as I am”. ??
          they?? who is ‘they??

          • Salihu

            My lost relative, of course. My paternal grand father left home and died while my father was a kid. Dad couldn’t trace home and so all of us, his children. Even though all this may have happened within the same country, this is Africa, where records are badly kept. Is there any relative of my grand dad alive out there or are they all dead?

    • Michael Keener

      just look up in the trees…

  • Emkay

    yet another example of people who need to find ‘real jobs that produce something of value…..

  • Kyel Hill

    The true reason they don’t want to tell the relatives is because they don’t want to reveal to to world that he was a black man.

    • cezar211091 .

      and why do you think he was a black man, dumbass?

      • Kyel Hill

        His blood line was from Moore decent. Look it up and learn your history hater.Y are you so pissed off if he was low life.

        • cezar211091 .

          moors, 5000 years ago…in the Alps? yeah, right.

          • Kyel Hill

            I meant to say Corsican.That’s that’s my fault.

  • Kyel Hill

    They said that dna evidence showed he was from Corsican descent.Google the Corsican flag it will show you what original Corsican people looked like.

  • Dutch550

    I’d think it would be cool to know I’m related to Otzi.

  • Elizabeth Jean Sullivan

    I would love to be able to see my ancestors from over 5000 years ago.

  • H-l Rankin

    I’d want to know!

  • Maria Gabriela

    Discoveries change origin estimates all the time. Don’t get comfy with any particular dating method or number as more digs and discoveries tweak, adjust and prove previous dates incorrect. Science depends on what’s knowable, not what our preconceived notions have become cozy with. If you argue one way based on bias, you might be embarrassed tomorrow. Keep yourself open to other options.

  • Michele Mandrioli

    My husband has the same mt-DNA haplogroup (K) as Ötzi did. His mother’s ancestors were Pennsylvania “Dutch”, and have been traced to Switzerland and Austria. Ötzi’s body was found near the Italian/Austrian border.

  • Gary Toot Smith

    Looks like Chris Kristofferson

  • Nogaybstraghtnluvlady

    Wow seems to me by readi g these comments there are some seriously disturbed racist prices of turds such as follow your family tree for peeps from Africa by looking up in trees. Saying not informing DNA matches about them matching him cause they don’t want them to know there black . Then same a hole saying why so upset cause you found out your family line /dna/ ice man = a pathetic low life ancestry. God please don’t be a white man or woman cause if so I’m ashamed to be half German and half American native Indian. Cause my skin is white. I grew up, no no . actually was raised in and by a racist clan family from Alabama that relocated to Texas, but even though I was raised in one I grew up looked up and seen our great flag for what it was … And that’s not all white it’s red white n blue multi colored due to multi colored people. White yeah for white folks. Blue for all darker skinned people and red for eastern . Asian.native Indian ECT. You people make me sick and make our great nation look not so great.

  • Nura

    Im related to Ötzi not sure if its true but my dna results show Ötzi as an ancestor. Im also lactose intolerant.

  • Nancy Morrissey

    In my Mom’s puntDNAL K-12 ancient oracle results: mixed mode population sharing: #15 94.6% Unetice EBA 10117 + 5.4% Iceman MN SG @ 2,85 distance. In my puntDNAL K-12 ancient oracle results” miced mode population sharing #13 94.3% Bell Beaker Germany 11549 + 5.7% Iceman MN SG @ 1.96 distance. Other direct members of our family (6) do not.

  • tjwiss

    My son did a DNA test. It said he is related to Otzi
    threw his mtDna.


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar