Ötzi the Iceman, also known as the Similaun Man, natural mummy of a man who was discovered by some hikers near the border of Italy & Austria back in 1991. Using DNA testing and some other mumbo jumbo, scientists in Austria have uncovered 19 living relatives.

otzi-reconstruction

Ötzi the Iceman, as he may or may not have looked in 3255 BC

The relatives may not know they’re related, however. The Austrian researchers haven’t told them.

They found the 19 genetic matches by looking through the DNA records of 3,700 Austrian blood donors for a rare Y-chromosome mutation known as G-L91. The mutation is a reliable marker for ancestral relationships, because it tends to be passed down intact from one generation to the next. But because it’s on the Y sex chromosome, the marker can be used only to trace male ancestry.

Parson and his colleagues are using genetic markers to get a better sense of how different populations spread throughout the Alpine regions. So far, their research suggest that migration patterns favored Austria’s Pillersattel pass over the Landeck district in prehistoric times, Parson told APA.

The 19 Austrian men in Parson’s study are almost certainly not the only ones who share ancestry with Ötzi. The APA said scientists expect to find relatives in nearby regions of the Swiss and Italian Alps as well.

When it comes to frozen mummies, Ötzi is a world-famous celebrity. (Juanita the Peruvian Ice Maiden ranks up there as well.) Researchers have already deduced that Ötzi came from farming stock, and that he suffered from heart disease, joint pain, tooth decay, lactose intolerance and possibly Lyme disease.

None of those maladies killed him. Instead, scientists suggest he was shot with an arrow as he walked along an Alpine trail. He apparently experienced a blow to the head, injured his eye as he fell, and bled to death on the trail. Or did he die somewhere else, and get a ceremonial burial in the mountains? All these clues make Ötzi’s death one of the scientific world’s most intensely investigated “cold cases.”

I wonder how long before one of those relatives tries to claim an inheritance?