05/02/2012 04:28 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

'Iceman's' Blood Recovered After 5 Millennia


Oetzi the "iceman" suffered a number of injuries at the time of his death, including the fatal arrow wound in his back, according to researchers who recovered red blood cells from his mummified remains.

Researchers were able to retrieve a blood sample from the iceman’s wounds – the oldest such sample on record – and found evidence of clotting. Their results were published Wednesday in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

“This observation confirms that the Iceman sustained several injuries before his death,” the study says.

A team of researchers led by Albert Zink of the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, Germany, used an atomic force microscope together with Raman spectroscopy, a technique that uses refracted light.

They found that healthy-looking, doughnut-shaped blood cells remained preserved in the iceman after more than five millennia.

The scientists also found traces of haemoglobin and fibrin, a protein that's known to degrade quickly in a wound, suggesting that Oetzi died shortly after he was shot with the arrow.

Earlier analyses of Oetzi's body said that he died violently from an arrow lodged in his left shoulder. They also found that he had the blood of four different people on his clothes (he was wearing three layers of clothing made from goat, deerskin and bark).

The discovery of a blood cells is the latest in what the scientists described in their study as “one of the oldest forensic puzzles.”

An analysis of the iceman’s DNA that was published in February found that he had brown eyes, type O blood, and was lactose intolerant. It also found that he was genetically predisposed to coronary heart disease and showed signs of the earliest known infection with Lyme disease.

The well-preserved, mummified body was found in 1991 on the Tisenjoch Pass in the Italian part of the Oeztal Alps, which is why the iceman was nicknamed Oetzi.

Since then, researchers have conducted many studies on the body, including using genetic material, and found out a lot about Oetzi and how he died.

Previous DNA samples taken from the iceman’s intestines showed mutations typically found in men with reduced sperm function that can render them infertile.

In addition to the information about Oetzi's eye colour and blood type, DNA tests have shown that he shared a common ancestor with people who now live on the islands of Corsica and Sardinia.