Ice Man: Stone Age European Had Modern Medical Woes With AM-Fat Gene, Bjt
BRENDA C. COLEMAN
Nov. 30, 1994
CHICAGO (AP) _ Though he lived 2,000 years before King Tut, his aches and pains were a lot like yours and mine.
The 5,300-year-old ''Ice Man,'' whose well-preserved body was discovered in a glacier three years ago in the Alps, had arthritis, hardening of the arteries and broken ribs that healed slowly over time, researchers reported Wednesday.
''When you think of 5,300 years, it seems like an enormous time to any of us who maybe have a life span of 70 years. But in evolutionary history, it's just the wink of an eye,'' said Dr. William A. Murphy Jr., head of diagnostic imaging at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Murphy reported on the medical miseries of the mummy, dubbed ''Otzi'' because it was found in Italy's Otzval Valley, at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.
''It's really not much different from modern man,'' Murphy said. ''There are just very impressive similarities.''
Researchers believe the gap-toothed Otzi was 25 to 40 when he died, but he already had developed fairly severe osteoarthritis - the kind believed to result from wear and tear - in his neck, low back and one hip, Murphy said.
Osteoarthritis in one little toe also suggests he may have suffered from a bout of frostbite, Murphy said.
Calcium deposits were discovered in the blood vessels of Otzi's chest, pelvis and neck, indicating heart disease stalked the Stone Age man despite his almost certainly rigorous existence.
''He had hardening of the arteries - arteriosclerosis,'' Murphy said. But researchers have no way of knowing whether this was unusual for men of Otzi's age in that era. ''He's the only reference point we have for 5,300 years ago.''
Eight or so fractures were discovered in Otzi's ribs, but no one can say whether they occurred all at once or at different times, Murphy said.
''It's the kind of thing that might have hospitalized modern man. It certainly would have sent modern man to the emergency room,'' he said. ''He did very well with these; he certainly lived well beyond the injuries.''
Murphy was part of an international team assembled at the University of Innsbruck, Austria, to examine the mummy with modern X-ray techniques. They have taken more than 2,000 images of Otzi since he was found, Murphy said.
Otzi was found in the ice by hikers. The corpse is the best preserved European known from an age 4,000 to 6,000 years ago, when humans were just starting to use copper for tools and weapons.
The body is being stored in a freezer at the University of Innsbruck, and researchers are allowed to work with it only 20 or 30 minutes at a time to prevent it from deteriorating.