5300-Year-Old “Iceman” Is First Recorded Case of Lyme Disease DNA analysis of pelvis shows evidence of Borrelia burgdorferi

By Dorothy Kupcha Leland

T hey call him Ötzi the Iceman. He lived and died 5300 years ago in the Eastern Alps near the modern-day border of Austria and Italy. His frozen remains were discovered accidentally by German hikers in 1991.

Now, his mummified body rests at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy. And scientists from all over the world have been studying him, inside and out, learning amazing information about what life was like back then.

From looking at the well-preserved contents of his stomach, they know what he had for breakfast the day he died (ibex and wild grain). Via other tests, including DNA sequencing, they’ve also determined that Ötzi was lactose intolerant, had hardened arteries, probably had brown eyes—and apparently had Lyme disease.

Recently, I was lucky enough to “meet” Ötzi on his home turf. Well, actually, like other museum visitors, I could only peek at him through a tiny window of his refrigerated holding tank.

And pose next to an artist’s creation of what he may have looked like, back in the day.
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