Ötzi the iceman may have perished 5,300 years ago, but the mummy has relatives that are alive and well in Austria.
A team of researchers at the Institute of Legal Medicine at Innsbruck Medical University found 19 men related to the mummy using DNA samples taken from 3,700 blood donors from the state of Tyrol in western Austria, Discovery News reports.
“We found 19 men have the same ancestry as Ötzi,” Walther Parson, the forensic scientist who carried out the study told the Austrian Press Agency. “These men and the Tyrolean Iceman had the same ancestors.”
Ötzi the iceman, who was discovered in the Alps in 1991, was originally believed to be the frozen corpse of a mountaineer or soldier who died during World War I. Tests later confirmed the iceman dates back to 3,300 BC and most likely died from a blow to the back of the head, the Telegraph reports.
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Found buried in the Ötztal Alps along the Austrian-Italian border, the mummified remains were nicknamed Ötzi and are now on display at a specially-built museum in Bolzano, Italy, where visitors view the mummy through portholes into a refrigerated room, Standard Digital reports.
Ötzi, who was approximately 46 years old at the time of his death, had the oldest known case of Lyme disease, was lactose intolerant and carried risk of heart disease. A bow, a quiver of arrows and a copper ax were among the possessions found with the frozen remains.
Researchers were able to identify Ötzi’s relatives by finding individuals who shared his same genetic mutation, according to RedOrbit.
"There are parts of the human DNA, which are generally inherited unchanged. In men this lies on the Y chromosomes and in females on the mitochondria. Eventual changes arise due to mutations, which are then inherited further," Parson told the Austrian Times. "This is the reason why we can categorize people with the same people into so-called haplogroups."
Ötzi belonged to the haplogroup G, the sub category G-L9, Parson explained adding that haplogroup G suggests that earlier people migrated to the Ötztal valley from Fließm -- a municipality in western Austria founded in the sixth century.
Researchers positively identified 19 men related to the ancient mummy as part of a broader study on the heritage of people who live in the Alpine regions. But the surprising discovery has yet to be revealed to those most closely affected by it.
"The men however do not know about their match,” Parson said. “We have not informed them."