In some sick morbid way, I’ve grown up with Oetzi, a.k.a. “Iceman ”  He’s the prehistoric mummy that was found in the Alps back in 1991 by two German hikers. Since then his last meal was figured out, and I remember when there was some controversy over whether he was a human sacrifice or killed in battle. And now, from Afarensis, I receive depressing news that my good friend Oetzi was infertile… and it wasn’t because of the major prolonged shrinkage of being mummified under a glacier.

Rather, according to this BBC News article on his infertility was due to areas of his mtDNA genome that are linked to an increased chance of male infertility. More specifically,

“The team also looked at patterns in Oetzi’s DNA to try to establish more information about his roots.The scientists discovered that he belonged to the K1 subdivision of the haplogroup known as K.

Haplogroups can be described as the branches of the human genealogical tree. Each haplogroup corresponds to early human migrations to the various continents or geographical regions.

K is a comparatively rare haplogroup amongst Europeans, but it has higher frequencies in populations in Ladin in the south of the Alps, and also the Oetzal area to the north.

But Dr Rollo cautioned against the certainty of these results because knowledge of the group’s distribution is still poor and there are only small population samples to compare with it.

The researchers also found that Oetzi belonged to a fourth subcategory of the K1 group that had previously not been seen.”

The scientists wonder that if an “awareness of male infertility in this ancient society” existed along with the “lack of a family or clan could represent a kind of social weakness,” thus giving some sort of reason for wondering if he was sacrificed, or killed, or even just abandoned in the harsh environment of the Alps.

The findings will be published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

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