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Science

The Iceman's Last Meal 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-it-was-twinkies dept.
sciencehabit writes "Less than two hours before he hiked his last steps in the Tyrolean Alps 5000 years ago, Ötzi the Iceman fueled up on a last meal of ibex meat, according to a new study. Armed with Ötzi's newly sequenced genome and a detailed dental analysis, scientists have also found that the Iceman had brown eyes (not blue, as commonly assumed) and probably wasn't much of a tooth brusher. Dental analysis shows that the Iceman suffered a blunt force trauma to two teeth — possibly a blow to the mouth — at least several days before his death and was plagued by both periodontal disease and cavities."
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The Iceman's Last Meal

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  • by reboot246 (623534) on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:09PM (#36505820) Homepage
    and "plagued by both periodontal disease and cavities."

    He was British?
    • by rolfwind (528248) on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:26PM (#36506010)

      They always tell me before the rise of civilization that human teeth were perfectly fine. That natural sweets like fruit fibers forced the sugar away before any real damage was done. That white flour and white sugar, removed from it's natural fibers do all the damage. And I know that is true to some extent, but I really don't think before that crap came that everyone was running around with perfect teeth.

      So, was Oetzi from a civilization with all that bad stuff in that sense, since he's way younger than 10,000 years old? Or do human teeth really just suck that much? (FWIW, I wish all our teeth were like baby teeth, constantly displaced and renewed every 5-7 years).

      • (FWIW, I wish all our teeth were like baby teeth, constantly displaced and renewed every 5-7 years).

        Like sharks? Yeah, that'd be pretty cool...

        • by rolfwind (528248)

          Somewhat, except I don't want 2x3 rows of teeth in my mouth at any one time:)

          • by Konsalik (1921874)
            Especially if the girl giving you head has a few rows of sharp teeth pointing backwards. Well maybe if you are into that kind of thing it wont bother you...
            • by ArsonSmith (13997)

              What is this head^Hgirl of which you seek?

              • by Anonymous Coward

                What is this head^Hgirl of which you seek?

                What's a heagirl?

            • by Anonymous Coward

              You see this shit?

              Especially if the girl giving you head has a few rows of sharp teeth pointing backwards.

              STOP IT.

              My dick just ran under the couch like a scared puppy. You ass.

      • by AdamHaun (43173)

        I heard something like that, only it was that meat doesn't cause tooth decay the way carbohydrates do.

      • by ryantmer (1748734)
        Could also have to do with life expectancy being much shorter - from what I can tell, average life expectancy 5000 years ago was between 20 and 25, so there would be much less time for dental problems to develop (or any health problems, really, aside from ones like "being murdered by opposing tribe" or the favourite "getting eaten by a sabertooth" which plagued many of that era).
        • by rolfwind (528248)

          A lot of the life expectancy is lowered because of death at child birth (both children and women) and also in the fragile toddler years. There were people who regularly lived to 40s/50s/60s.

          • by Dahamma (304068)

            ...and their teeth were probably a mess.

            • by EdIII (1114411) on Monday June 20, 2011 @08:57PM (#36508400)

              I am not an anthropologist, but were there not many cultures where food was chewed for elder people that lacked the teeth to do it themselves?

              Probably remember it from a documentary or some movies, but I would love an anthropologist to chime in on this.

              • by Anonymous Coward

                IAADS (I am a Dental Student) ((People really seem to like doing this so I thought I'd give it a shot))

                From my studies, we've learnt about the progression of dental decay in society over short and long periods of time.
                What you said was true to a certain extent, however it was the total timeframe that you got wrong.

                They always tell me before the rise of civilization that human teeth were perfectly fine.

                It was before the rise of human agriculture. So back when humans had to dig up and chase down all their food sources, they had teeth with no caries (dental decay). However, once people developed

          • by BeaverCleaver (673164) on Monday June 20, 2011 @11:16PM (#36509112)

            A lot of the life expectancy is lowered because of death at child birth (both children and women) and also in the fragile toddler years. There were people who regularly lived to 40s/50s/60s.

            Thank you. Really, thank you. That statistic gets thrown around all the time, and as you point out, it's bullshit. Life expectancy was lower because lots of babies and children died. Polio, Measles, smallpox, malnutrition....childbirth [as you stated], whatever.

            Just because life expectancy was in the order of 30 years, absolutely does not mean that there was ever a time in human history that healthy 30 year olds were just spontaneously dropping dead.

            • absolutely does not mean that there was ever a time in human history that healthy 30 year olds were just spontaneously dropping dead.

              Apart from now, you mean?

              Iraq and Afghanistan Casualties:

              • Ages 18-21 -- 28.2% (1,325) of the deaths
              • Ages 22-24 -- 23.7% (1,108) of the deaths
              • Ages 25-30 -- 25.6% (1,198) of the deaths
              • Ages 31-35 -- 10.4% (486) of the deaths
              • Over 35 -- 12.1% (566) of the deaths

              http://usmilitary.about.com/od/terrorism/a/iraqdeath1000.htm [about.com]

              • by Calydor (739835)

                Death by acute lead poisoning is not 'spontaneously dropping dead'. In this case, 'spontaneously' means 'with no discernible reason'.

            • by tehcyder (746570)

              Just because life expectancy was in the order of 30 years, absolutely does not mean that there was ever a time in human history that healthy 30 year olds were just spontaneously dropping dead.

              You're going too far the other way. The point is that by the time you got to 30, a lot of your fwllows had died of starvation, cold, physical exhaustion, wild animal attacks, fellow human attacks or (most importantly) a host of relatively minor ailments that would kill you in the absence of proper medicines. In hunter/gatherer times, getting something like a broken limb would effectively finish you off.

      • by pjt33 (739471)

        Well, the Egyptians certainly aren't pre-civilisation, but I doubt they had white sugar, at least. When I visited Barcelona's Archaelogical Museum last year they had an exhibit about some mummies, and IIRC a third of them showed signs of serious tooth decay.

        • Well, the Egyptians certainly aren't pre-civilisation, but I doubt they had white sugar, at least.

          They most certainly had honey.

          • My dentist is a beekeeper and sells honey at his office. He says that honey is naturally anti-bacterial and doesn't cause tooth decay because it's the acid generated by bacteria that damages tooth enamel.
            • by overshoot (39700) on Monday June 20, 2011 @07:16PM (#36507694)

              My dentist is a beekeeper and sells honey at his office. He says that honey is naturally anti-bacterial and doesn't cause tooth decay because it's the acid generated by bacteria that damages tooth enamel.

              Easy enough to test: eat a mouthful of honey, and then take an oral swab. Test it for bacteria.

              The reason that honey is anti-bacterial is simple osmotic pressure: the sugar concentration is so high that bacteria get dehydrated. Pure sugar works exactly the same way. Dilution, no shock, cancels out the effect.

              However, a dentist selling honey as a tooth preservative? Might be a good business plan.

              • by yanyan (302849)

                However, a dentist selling honey as a tooth preservative? Might be a good business plan.

                Seems kind of ironic to me. In effect he's killing his market by helping people take better care of their teeth which, if everybody in the world did, would render dentists largely unnecessary in the first place. A better, more evil, if you will, business plan would be to hand out free sweets to patients on their way out. >:-)

              • by LongearedBat (1665481) on Monday June 20, 2011 @11:47PM (#36509248)

                Honey is not antiseptic due simply to a high sugar rate.

                This page says that honey is antiseptic in various ways [worldwidewounds.com] and that some types of honey are more antiseptic than others. And this research [sciencedirect.com] seems to suggest that a part of the antibacterial activity might be of plant origin and the major part of the antibacterial activity of honeydew honey is of bee origin.

                Put simply: It's complex, and we don't know it all yet.

                Medical grade types of honey are still being discovered [medicalnewstoday.com]. "Medical grade honey"? Yes, this article [springerlink.com] claims that eight species of problematic wound pathogens, including those with high levels of innate or acquired antibiotic resistance, were killed by 4.0–14.8% honey , meaning that they're effective even when diluted.

                It's an intersting read, especially the 1st article.

        • They also had sand everywhere, including in the flour they used to make their bread. And sand is a really great abrasive, as you probably know. I wouldn't blame all their tooth decay on sweets!

        • The egyptians ate stone-ground flour with a lot of sand in it. It wore their teeth down rapidly, resulting in abscesses.

      • by Spy Handler (822350) on Monday June 20, 2011 @05:09PM (#36506454) Homepage Journal
        it's not just human teeth that suck, or that civilization/agriculture ruined our teeth. Animal conservation people often tranquilize lions in the wild to relocate them/take blood samples for studies, etc... very often they find the lion with cavities and gingivitis, even though it's been living on a diet of meat exclusively (as all lions have for millenia).

        I saw this on NatGeo once -- scientists tranqulized a lion took some samples and gave it a checkup, and one of the things they did was to drill out a cavitity and fill it, and give him a dental cleaning (with dental floss). It was pretty funny.
      • by pluther (647209) <pluther@u s a . net> on Monday June 20, 2011 @05:28PM (#36506646) Homepage
        Human teeth really suck that much.

        Teeth found as least as far back as Neanderthal are almost universally worn flat in anyone who survived to adulthood. Also, abscesses, often wearing away bone all the way up into the sinuses, are very common in pleistocene remains from the Americas. (The individuals must have been in constant pain for years. Ouch.)

        We've also found a lot of teeth that were badly decayed, and forcibly extracted. Sometimes in pieces. Ice age dentistry wasn't pretty.

        • by gknoy (899301)

          When did we discover alcohol? I wonder what they did to deal with the pain, if anything.

        • by EdIII (1114411)

          Ice age dentistry wasn't pretty.

          Oh really? You think medical practices have got better do you?

          I was wheeled in to a room this morning that resembled the lab Darth Vader was constructed in for my first colonoscopy. A bunch of people moving around real fast, but on one wall there were fucking black tubes 7 fucking feet long that looked like Borg power conduits. It got worse from there.

          I was told that conscious sedation was cheaper and I cut him off right there. I asked if those black cables that looked like it was from the personal coll

          • I told his ass right there I didn't care what it cost. Knock my ass out now because I don't want to remember a damn thing.

            You, sir, are a pussy.

            Plus, you do know that the more anesthesia your body takes, the less it endures in the future? Knocking yourself because of a simple dental problem is stupid and your doctor should have told you so. You need to pay more and get a better doctor, instead of more drugs.

            • by jackbird (721605) on Monday June 20, 2011 @10:04PM (#36508780)

              If he's getting a colonoscopy as part of a dental procedure, I'd say his dental problem is far from simple...

              • by Billlagr (931034)
                Puts whole new slant on 'Root Canal'. Drilling from the bottom (ha!) up..
              • Hehe... I misread and I think I owe the guy an apology. On the other hand, he seems to have enjoyed the ride, so I'll take a wild guess and say he took no offense.
            • Plus, you do know that the more anesthesia your body takes, the less it endures in the future?

              Not true, my friend. Not true. It's just that old people die more easily, and that people who need tons of surgical procedures tend not to be the healthiest. Rumor has it that many, many Soviet soldiers would take a half-shot of ether whenever they wanted to have a good evening...

              • Rumor has it that many, many Soviet soldiers would take a half-shot of ether whenever they wanted to have a good evening...

                My bad, your rumor about Russian drunks clearly proves me wrong.

                • Soviet drunks are just an amusing aside.

                  I'm a practicing anesthesiologist. You're wrong. You do not have a limited number of hours of anesthesia on this earth (unless you're reckless about who puts you under - viz., Michael Jackson).
          • If you have means I highly recommend it. The first few hours after anesthesia is like Disney Land, but much cooler.

            It is not just about being able to afford it. I have had general anaesthesia twice and it was horrible. First, I puke all day Second, I seem to go on a bad trip. Seem to, since I can not remember any of it. But then I have to endure tales of everything I did, like kicking the doctor (both times).

            • by EdIII (1114411)

              Funny you mentioned not remembering.

              I can remember waking up in the recovery room, doing a few limited things, and then I don't remember anything else for about an hour. I thought I passed out. However, I was told by the doctors, nurses, and a family member that I was remarkable lucid and able to understand and answer questions.

              No memories though. It is just a complete blank. I'm sure any college student out there can relate to what I am saying.

              • by Uzuri (906298)

                Precisely what happened after my appendectomy. I remember being vaguely annoyed that the nurse wouldn't accept my pointing to my wrist band as the answer for "what's your birthday" and then I don't remember a damn thing until 4:00 that afternoon. Meanwhile Mom claims that they'd never have taken me out of recovery if I wasn't awake.

                I think that proves that we have no idea what "awake" really is.

          • by wildstoo (835450)

            I asked if those black cables that looked like it was from the personal collection of PinHead were going to be used on me and I told his ass right there...

            Considering the procedure, this choice of phrasing amused me.

          • by jedrek (79264)

            The fact that you were able to get knocked out reliably means that medical practices have gotten a LOT better.

          • by AmiMoJo (196126)

            I opted not to have an aesthetic of any kind when I had some fillings put in. I'm not hardcore or anything, I just hate the numbness more than the short period of pain from drilling.

            But yeah, when you go to have your shit-pipe cleaned out it ain't gonna be pretty.

        • by Seedy2 (126078)

          Human teeth really suck that much.

          Teeth found as least as far back as Neanderthal are almost universally worn flat in anyone who survived to adulthood. Also, abscesses, often wearing away bone all the way up into the sinuses, are very common in pleistocene remains from the Americas. (The individuals must have been in constant pain for years. Ouch.)

          We've also found a lot of teeth that were badly decayed, and forcibly extracted. Sometimes in pieces. Ice age dentistry wasn't pretty.

          Wait?!? You mean they don't still do it that way? Crap I need a new dentist.
          My last extraction resulted in about five pieces. (OK it was in the '80s)

          • by pluther (647209)
            Well, they still do it sometimes, but I've been led to believe that these days they use more anesthetic and less rocks...
      • by Type44Q (1233630)

        They always tell me before the rise of civilization that human teeth were perfectly fine. That natural sweets like fruit fibers forced the sugar away before any real damage was done. That white flour and white sugar, removed from it's natural fibers do all the damage. And I know that is true to some extent, but I really don't think before that crap came that everyone was running around with perfect teeth.

        So, was Oetzi from a civilization with all that bad stuff in that sense, since he's way younger than 10,000 years old? Or do human teeth really just suck that much? (FWIW, I wish all our teeth were like baby teeth, constantly displaced and renewed every 5-7 years).

        It's probably quite simple, actually. Indigenous people around the planet often have perfect teeth when Western explorers first enounter them but there are at least two exceptions to this: the Incas, who tended to have horrible teeth (due to the fact that they ate cooked corn containing carbs which, as any diabetic should be able to tell you, affect the body the way sugar does) and certain islanders from the West Indies, who chewed/sucked raw sugar cane (not a great idea, the toxicity of refined sugar not w

      • by Swampash (1131503)

        They always tell me before the rise of civilization that human teeth were perfectly fine.

        I think the missing words are "were perfectly fine for a human's natural lifespan."

        It's just that a human lifespan was probably about 30 or 40 years, and then you died of old age.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "That white flour and white sugar, removed from it's natural fibers do all the damage."

        If you make your flour yourself with 2 stones, there will be lots of microscopic stone fragments in it, making the bread abrasive for your teeth.

      • Darn swiss choccies......

        I guess they didn't live long enough back then to have bad teeth become much of an issue. Or maybe they died because of the eventual lack of nutrient uptake. Chicken? Egg? You decide.

      • Well, what they told you is partly wrong.

        Human teeth weren't perfect by any means. Cavities did occur, and when they did it frequently ended in abscesses and eventual loss of the tooth. What the records do show is that the number of cavities per capita was much less than your typical agrarian society (even the British have fewer cavities than Americans, despite the GP's tired crack).

        The basic process of cavity formation is this: two types of bacteria feed on the sticky carbohydrates (corn-based products are

      • by camazotz (1242344)
        Usually bad teeth are associated with the rise of agriculture. Dental quality in teeth drops after the development of sophisticated agricultural mechanisms for a variety of reasons, including the fact that teeth wear more readily with grains and seeds that are ground into powder for baking, often with stone mortars and tools that contribute to the wear on teeth through stone particles. Among pueblo indian groups in the southwest US for example the simple mortar/matate process of stone-grinding corn was the
    • by Anonymous Coward

      and "plagued by both periodontal disease and cavities."

      He was British?

      "the Iceman suffered a blunt force trauma to two teeth — possibly a blow to the mouth"

      Apparently he was also a soccer fan.

    • by drsquare (530038)

      He was British?

      You mean American? They're the ones with the rotten teeth. I wonder if they had Wonderbread in the Stone Age.

  • Lies (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:13PM (#36505858)

    Everyone knows primitive man was vegetarian. We are given a McDonalds palate at birth by our capitalist/consumer industrial processed food culture. They knew better.

    Oh, and they weren’t violent either.

  • by joe_cot (1011355) on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:21PM (#36505940) Homepage

    I thought they were talking about this guy [wikipedia.org]. He's been in prison for a while, but he didn't get the death penalty.

  • Val Kilmer (Score:4, Funny)

    by jgerry (14280) * <jason DOT gerry AT gmail DOT com> on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:24PM (#36505978) Homepage

    For a minute I thought Val Kilmer had died.

  • by jd (1658) <imipak@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:31PM (#36506080) Homepage Journal

    There's claims that he may have been moved after death and that he may have been killed in or around a settlement off the Alps.

    That aside, the continuing research is building up an amazing picture. I assume they've done the strontium isotope testing on the teeth to locate exactly where he was originally from.

    What's more, glaciers in the Alps and across Scandanavia are releasing enormous amounts of organics, allowing for a much better picture of the time to be built. The main concern had by archaeologists is that the amount they're able to collect (due to really insignificant resources) is tiny compared to what's actually being released. Cloth and wood, when released by a glacier, will rot extremely quickly if efforts are not made to preserve it (not the seconds shown in Indiana Jones IV, but months to maybe a year or so) but may be removed and destroyed/buried by mud, animals, build-up of the terminal morraine, etc, long before that.

    What we do have, though, is a picture of an era within that area that is incredibly comprehensive. We only know about the use of colour in early mediterranian clothes because X-Ray fluorescence on Greek and Roman sculptures reveals the paints used. We actually have dyed cloth from Otzi's time. We know the Romans loved wine and beer, from their writings and from residue in containers, but we've actually found seeds in the process of being malted in German and France again contemporary with Otzi along with other ingredients in their raw form. Also from that era, we have found doors that are painted and have latches, ropes, longbows, shoes and other artifacts, most of which are either completely or almost completely intact. That is impressive.

    Provided more enthusiasts in Europe go out, find, salvage as necessary, and report organics to make up for the lack of archaeological resources, we are quite capable of building a picture of Bronze Age and Iron Age Europe that is more comprehensive than our knowledge of early-to-mid Medieval times.

    • by Hatta (162192) on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:45PM (#36506206) Journal

      There's claims that he may have been moved after death and that he may have been killed in or around a settlement off the Alps.

      You see what happens when you find a stranger in the Alps?

    • by j-stroy (640921)
      The recent meal, the un-plundered artifacts (valuable copper axe, knife, arrows, fire kit & clothing) found with him and determination of injuries sure sounds like he died alone in a "chase" involving two groups. Wikipedia mentions multiple blood evidence. [wikipedia.org] Most intriguing is the sophistication of his shoes or possibly framed snowshoes.
      • by jd (1658)

        The two meals prior to his last seemed to be fairly elaborate [pnas.org], suggesting that whatever chase or chases may have taken place it wasn't expected and wasn't until after the last meal.

        The current theory seems to be that the un-plundered artifacts were a result of him being ritually buried in the Alps after death, on the grounds that although the blood on the knife proves he was in hand-to-hand combat (and must have won, since he survived that and was killed by an arrow), nothing from the attackers other than t

        • by rahvin112 (446269)

          Last I saw he wasn't that far from home (where his teeth show he's from that is). Unless they changed the theory they suspect he was wealthy or someone of high social rank and he was in a hand-to-hand fight that resulted in him running away and someone shooting him in the back with an arrow which he extracted himself (leaving the head embedded in his back) he died while running away (from the punctured lung and the blood loss) and that he likely fell and died and was buried in snow (and thus never found) be

          • by belmolis (702863)
            They are pretty sure that his body was moved by the flow of the ice after his death, which would have disrupted its original orientation and conformation.
            • by fotoguzzi (230256)
              Were all the artifacts moved along with him by the ice? My understanding is that he was not far from the items found.
          • by jd (1658)

            [Ritual burial theory][http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/08/otzi-ceremony/]
            [Rejection by the archaeologists at the Otzi museum][http://www.iceman.it/en/statement_burial_theory]
            [A more neutral POV article on Otzi in general and the theories of death][http://www.health.medicbd.com/wiki/%C3%96tzi_the_Iceman]

            Basically, the claim of burial is "case unproven" but all other contending theories also have problems from lack of evidence. Since medical exams on mummies have invariably turned up injuries missed by

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      "Global Warming Benefits Archeology!"
      -Headline from the next issue of The Petroleum Times

  • by DdJ (10790) on Monday June 20, 2011 @04:32PM (#36506090) Homepage Journal

    ...did he at least have clean underwear?

  • The more I hear about this guy, the more I think of a partially successful escape from some chieftain daughters room. He was probably shouting something like "Everybody lies about sex, it depends on what your definition of is is, and it was all George W Bushes fault!" while he was running away. Several forced reincarnations later, and his vocal efforts finally worked out better.

    • Were they able to find any body fluids, did he cumeth ?
    • by Sique (173459)

      He was about 50, when he died, so the chieftain daughter's room theory has some problems to overcome.

      (Full disclosure: I live about 1 1/2 hrs drive from the point where he was discovered.)

      • Maybe it was the chieftain's wife. Though I don't see why it couldn't have been the daughter, or the daughter and the wife, and the livestock too.

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