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Iceman mummy holds world's oldest blood cells

The world’s oldest blood cells has been found in a Stone Age warrior entombed in ice 5,300 years ago.

Red cells were recovered from a wound on Oetzi the ‘Iceman’ who was killed by an arrow in the Italian Alps.


Rare find: The mummy of an iceman named Oetzi, discovered in Italian Schnal Valley glacier. pic/afp

“Up to now there had been uncertainty about how long blood could survive — let alone what human blood cells from the Chalcolithic period, the Copper Stone Age, might look like,” said Dr Albert Zink, of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy.

What emerged was a picture of red blood cells with the classic ‘doughnut shape’, exactly as we find them in healthy people today.

What is more, the status of the wound showed that contrary to earlier theories, Oetzi did not die when he was struck by the arrow but some days later.

Researchers now believe the advanced techniques they used to analyse the warrior’s tissue could be used in modern day crime-fighting.

Previous studies have revealed the 46-year-old was 1.57-metre tall, had brown eyes, type ‘O’ blood, was allergic to milk and predisposed to heart disease.

His body, unearthed in 1991, is preserved in a cold storage chamber at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy at a temperature of -60C (-76F).

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