A whole mitochondria analysis of the Tyrolean Iceman's leather provides insights into the animal sources of Copper Age clothing

Authors/others:O'Sullivan, Niall J (Eurac Research); Teasdale, Matthew D. (University of Dublin); Mattiangeli, Valeria (University of Dublin); Maixner, Frank (Eurac Research); Pinhasi, Ron (University College Dublin); Bradley, Daniel G. (University of Dublin); Zink, Albert (Eurac Research)

The attire of the Tyrolean Iceman, a 5,300-year-old natural mummy from the Ötzal Italian Alps, provides a surviving example of ancient manufacturing technologies. Research into his garments has however, been limited by ambiguity surrounding their source species. Here we present a targeted enrichment and sequencing of full mitochondrial genomes sampled from his clothes and quiver, which elucidates the species of production for nine fragments. Results indicate that the majority of the samples originate from domestic ungulate species (cattle, sheep and goat), whose recovered haplogroups are now at high frequency in today's domestic populations. Intriguingly, the hat and quiver samples were produced from wild species, brown bear and roe deer respectively. Combined, these results suggest that Copper Age populations made considered choices of clothing material from both the wild and domestic populations available to them. Moreover, these results show the potential for the recovery of complete mitochondrial genomes from degraded prehistoric artefacts.

Date of publication:18.8.2016
Journal title:Scientific Reports
Peer reviewed:true
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/srep31279
Publication Type:Article