(ANSA) - Bolzano, July 27 - The DNA of Italy's famed prehistoric 'Iceman' mummy has been mapped, enabling scientists to see if he has any descendants and what genetic changes there have been in the 5,000 years since he died.
Albert Zink of the Iceman Institute here said the map might also shed light on hereditary diseases and illnesses like diabetes and cancer. Although the DNA samples from the mummy were "extremely fragmented", he said, today's hi-tech equipment had completed the mapping quickly.
"We managed to identify the Iceman's complete genome with great speed," Zink said, acknowledging help from Carsten Pusch of Tubingen University in Germany and Andreas Keller of Heidelberg's Febit biotech lab.
The breakthrough announced Tuesday is just the latest in a string of findings that have kept the eyes of the world's scientific community focused on the Iceman since he was found peeping out of a glacier in the Oetz mountain valley in 1991.
The body, which dates back to 3000 BC, has spawned a global cottage industry of studies.
There have been discoveries about what he ate, what illnesses he suffered from, whether he was a shepherd, herder or hunter, and exactly how he died.
A couple of years ago a Bristol University researcher, space technology professor Mark Hempsell, said he believed new evidence of an asteroid landing could be linked to the Iceman's death.
A newly deciphered Assyrian tablet describes the annihilation of communities near the Iceman's death site about the time he died, Hempsell said.
Hempsell advanced a second theory: that the Iceman, also known as Oetzi, may have been a powerful man who was the victim of a ritual sacrifice made to appease the mighty forces who sent the asteroid.
Ritual sacrifice had long been one of the favourite theories about the Iceman's death until a CAT scan in the late 1990s revealed an arrow wound in his body.
This led most experts to conclude he was shot during a fight with rival hunters.
Another study - fiercely contested by patriotic residents of this formerly Austrian region who see Oetzi as their forefather - reckons he was cast out from his community because a low sperm count rendered him childless.