Oetzti the Iceman is finally seeing a doctor, or rather, lots of doctors. It may be a few millenia too late for Oetzi, the well-preserved late-Neolithic man who slipped into an ice crevasse atop the Oetzaler Alps 5,300 years ago. But it sure is helping the doctors understand more about the lifestyle of prehistoric Europeans.
In an earlier article, we reported on research that analyzed Oetzti’s hair proteins to shed light on what his diet might have been composed of. It was revealed that Oetzi was a vegetarian – he had eaten no meat, milk or eggs for several years before his death. The find was surprising considering the man was wearing a goatskin cloak. It was speculated that he may have been some sort of wandering shaman.
Now another researcher has added more food for thought. In the latest issue of The Lancet Luigi Capasso of Italy’s National Museum of Archaeology has analyzed the contents of Oetzi’s intestines. He found eggs from a parasitic worm in the mummy’s rectum. The parasite would have caused severe stomach ache, as well as anemia. This would explain why the iron content in Oetzi’s muscles was so low. Was Oetzi avoiding meat in an attempt to rid his body of parasites, perhaps a tradition of his culture? We’ll never know, but other objects in Oetzi’s possession indicates he may have been using more effective traditional medicine to deal with the worms.
Found with his body was a small leather pouch containing two woody balls of the fungus Piptoprus betulinus. The fungus contains oils that are toxic to worms, and have antibiotic properties. Capasso believes the Ice Man had knowledge of the properties of the fungus, and was using it to treat the worms.
Evidence of another kind of traditional medicine is witnessed by the intersecting cuts that criss-cross the knee area of the man. Scientists have determeined that Oetzi, who was 45 years old when he died, has arthritis in his lower back, knee and ankle. The cuts on his knee were filled with an herb and then cauterized to seal the herb below the skin.
Other theories point out that the 15 different groups of tattoos which covered the man’s body are found along the same meridians as those used by Chinese acupuncture, suggesting that ancient humans may have used this therapy as well.