Iceman Mummy Holds World’s Oldest Blood Cells

Iceman Mummy Holds World’s Oldest Blood Cells

Iceman Mummy Holds World’s Oldest Blood Cells

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May 2 2012 3:25 PM

Iceman Mummy Holds World’s Oldest Blood Cells

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The world's oldest known human blood cells have been extracted from the "iceman" mummy Otzi, discovered on 1991 in the Italian Schnal Valley glacier.

Photo by Andrea Solero/AFP/Getty Images

It’s like the best—and oldest—episode of CSI ever imagined, and they finally have some blood to send to the lab.

The most ancient red blood cells known to man have been discovered in the 5,300-year-old body of the ice man Oetzi.

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Researchers have long been looking for blood in the famous mummy discovered in the Italian Alps by hikers in 1991. But using a method called atomic force microscopy and a new laser procedure known as Raman spectroscopy, scientists finally found the classic doughnut-shaped red blood cells in a sample of tissue taken from around the deadly arrow wound in Oetzi's back.

The discovery is especially exciting because the new methods could eventually be used in modern forensics to help find the age of blood samples.

Scientists had previously determined Oetzi's last meal, his brown eye color, and recently published the ice man’s full genome. Next, maybe they can figure out whether he was an AC Milan or InterMilan fan. 

Video produced by Krishnan Vasuvedan.

Ben Johnson is the producer of Marketplace Tech from American Public Media.