Otzi, Bolzano and DNA

Otzi, the Iceman lived about 5300 years ago


Our main reason for visiting Bolzano was for a chance to meet Otzi. It was quite like stepping back in history, visiting the South Tyrol Museum of Archeology.

Let me give you a guide to how far back we have traveled back: Otzi’s DNA is over 5300 years old. How old is that? It is before Stonehenge was created and before the Egyptians built the Pyramids. Otzi is a Neolithic man, a man of the copper age and he did have an axe head that was made of copper.

About 5 ft 3 inches, although he is an original fit Paleo-man, Otzi had hardening of the arteries. His Y DNA was able to connect his ancestors to Sardinia, although scientists could tell Otzi had not been to Sardinia himself. He was a herder and was quite sophisticated for his time. He was dressed in the skins of domesticated animals, goats, cow and sheep skin, with a bear skin hat. Otzi sported several tattoos which may have been decorative or a form of acupuncture. We know from scientists that Otzi was lactose intolerant, probably had Lyme disease and bad teeth.  After all he had lived to the strapping age of 48 years.

The same scientists are able to tell us what Otzi dined on for his final meal: ibex (wild goat), fruit of black thorn and unleavened bread.

Two more interesting facts about Otzi’s DNA: His mother’s line or mitochondrial DNA is no longer found in existence today but 19 men in the Tyrol area do share the same Y DNA code as Otzi. You can see Otzi as he looks today at the museum in Bolzano, but the photo above is taken of a “life like reconstruction” using the amazing craftsmanship and latest of forensic methods of Adrie and Alfons Kennis. If you are in this part of Italy, visit Otzi. It opens up so much information about human life and there is more that we share in our lives no matter how many years intervene.

Music in the Square

In the evening, we walked around the mountain town and joined a concert in the town square. We could see that the people of Bolzano are always prepared for an emergency.

You never know when a shot of brandy will be needed.


This is a town we might visit again on a walking tour or perhaps a wine tour. For us Bolzano was the start of our Neolithic tour of the mid- latitudes. It was wonderful to meet Otzi and know I might have passed a family member in the street.