Martedì, 23 Ottobre 2018

Iceman 'had bad teeth'


(By Denis Greenan).
Rome, April 9 - The famed prehistoric man known as
the Iceman had bad teeth, according to the first CAT scan on the
dental health of the 5,300-year-old frozen mummy kept in the
northern Italian city of Bolzano.
The Iceman, also known as Oetzi because of the Oetz Alpine
Valley where he was found in a glacier by a German hiking couple
in 1991, "had tooth decay, deep dental abrasions, and a dead
front tooth that was probably caused by an accident or blow,"
said a team led by Frank Ruhli of Zurich's Centre for
Evolutionary Medicine.
The Swiss scientists made 3-D reconstructions of the
mummy's oral cavity which showed that Oetzi "also suffered from
strong infection of the paradental tissue, which determined a
lack of attachment of the teeth to the gum, especially the
molars,", Ruhli's team said.
One of the team leaders, Roger Seiler, said the Iceman had
allowed them to study the "first form of this disease up close,"
even though it has also been found in Stone Age skulls and
Egyptian mummies.
Contemporary medicine has linked such periodontitis, or
denegeneration of the bone and gum, to cardiovascular disease,"
signs of which have already been found in the Iceman.
"It's interesting that the Iceman should also show
hardening of the arteries," said Albert Zink, head of the
Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at Bolzano's Eurac academy
who coordinates global studies on the ancient man.
"As in the case of periodontitis, the cause is to be sought
primarily in his genetic predisposition," Fink said.
Eurac linked Oetzi's tooth problems to his starch-laden
diet of bread and cereals which were "the mainstays of what
people first ate after the advent of agriculture".
Officials at the South Tyrol Archaeological Museum, where
the Copper Age hunter is kept in a refrigerated cell, are
planning to expand the venue to cope with an ever-increasing
flow of visitors.
They said earlier this month the venue might be merged with
the nearby civic museum in the capital of the Alto Adige (South
Tyrol) region.
Since the archaeological museum was inaugurated on March
28, 1998, Oetzi has attracted more than 3.5 million visitors.
In other marks of his renown, he boasts more than 5.5
million Google hits, an ice-cream flavour created in his name,
and an iPad and iPhone app.
Created last month, the new app lets youngsters learn about
the Iceman's life and the stream of scientific discoveries made
about him.
The application aims to provide "fun ways to get to know
Europe's oldest natural human mummy", including games featuring
his well-known tattoos - rumoured to have been copied by Brad
Pitt - and "his extraordinary gear including his bow and arrow",
said Bolzano's Larixpress publishing house.
New discoveries about the world's oldest 'wet' mummy are
being made all the time.
Last May traces of blood were found on him, the oldest
blood sample ever found.
A year ago the first complete DNA map of the ancient man
found that he was lactose intolerant, or unable to digest a
sugar in milk.
The study also showed Oetzi had a predisposition towards
heart disease, a finding corroborated by the thickened arteries
in the body.
The mapping said the Iceman probably suffered from Lyme
Disease, a tick-borne infection whose symptoms may include
fever, headache, fatigue, depression, and a characteristic
circular skin rash.
According to an international team, the rugged mountain man
also shared a common ancestor with the inhabitants of today's
Sardinia and Corsica and his blood group was O.
As well as spurring countless studies and Internet items,
the Iceman draws more and more visitors to his Bolzano home.
He had an anniversary bash there in September 2011 when the
purpose-built museum celebrated 20 years since two German
tourists spotted him peeping out of the glacier.
"Oetzi has been great for us, the city and tourism in
the entire region," Archaeology Museum Director Angelika
Fleckinger said as the mummy, 2,000 years older than
Tutankhamen, 'welcomed' kids to play with prehistoric weapons
and offered 'neolithic' food for visitors.
Fleckinger said the anniversary celebrations had a "special
resonance" for her.
"Sometimes I think it is so strange. He died 5,000 years
ago yet this person, this Iceman, has become an important
part of my life".
Forensic science has made great strides since the Iceman
was found on September 19, 1991.
"We know so much about him, that he had brown eyes and a
few diseases, was getting on a bit at 46, and died from an
arrow wound.
"But we will maybe never know what really happened in
the last hours and minutes of his life".
The Iceman may still be something of a mystery but his
generosity to his adoptive home town is no secret.
According to the most recent figures, the refrigerated
man earns a total of four million euros each year for
restaurants, hotels and souvenir-sellers, Fleckinger said.
Year round, except for Christmas Day, New Year's Day and
May Day, he also raises 3.5 million euros in ticket fees at the
restructured bank that houses him.
That means he pays about half of the Bolzano
Archaeological Museum's costs, drawing in over one thousand
people a day.
This compares to the average of 15% which other Italian
museums defray out of visitors' pockets.
The Iceman's status as a global star is reflected by the 26
documentaries made about him by the world's TV companies.
He is perhaps the world's most famous mummy outside
The body, which dates back to 3000 BC, has spawned a
global cottage industry of studies.
As well as discoveries about what he ate and what
illnesses he suffered from, there has been a keen debate on how
he died from the arrow wound found in his body - initially,
it was thought, in a fight with rival hunters.
One theory says he was assassinated in a tribal power
Another suggested he was the victim of ritual sacrifice.
Another study - fiercely contested by patriotic
residents of the formerly Austrian region who see Oetzi as
their proud forefather - reckons he was cast out from his
community because a low sperm count rendered him childless.
An eerie aura has also grown around the Iceman because
of the allegedly mysterious deaths of seven people who came
into contact with him soon after he was found.

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