Publications by authors named "Albert Zink"

88 Publications

Ancient DNA diffuses from human bones to cave stones.

iScience 2021 Dec 23;24(12):103397. Epub 2021 Nov 23.

Eurac Research, Institute for Mummy Studies, 39100 Bolzano\Bozen, Italy.

Recent studies have demonstrated the potential to recover ancient human mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA from cave sediments. However, the source of such sedimentary ancient DNA is still under discussion. Here we report the case of a Bronze Age human skeleton, found in a limestone cave, which was covered with layers of calcite stone deposits. By analyzing samples representing bones and stone deposits from this cave, we were able to: i) reconstruct the full human mitochondrial genome from the bones and the stones (same haplotype); ii) determine the sex of the individual; iii) reconstruct six ancient bacterial and archaeal genomes; and finally iv) demonstrate better ancient DNA preservation in the stones than in the bones. Thereby, we demonstrate the direct diffusion of human DNA from bones into the surrounding environment and show the potential to reconstruct ancient microbial genomes from such cave deposits, which represent an additional paleoarcheological archive resource.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2021.103397DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8710462PMC
December 2021

Radiological evidence of purulent infections in ancient Egyptian child mummies.

Int J Paleopathol 2021 Dec 30;36:30-35. Epub 2021 Dec 30.

Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac Research, Viale Druso 1, I-39100 Bolzano, Italy. Electronic address:

Objective: To identify computed tomography (CT) findings of purulent infections in ancient Egyptian child mummies.

Materials: Whole-body CT examination of 21 ancient Egyptian child mummies from German (n = 18), Italian (n = 1), and Swiss museums (n = 2).

Methods: CT examinations were evaluated for estimation of age at death and sex of the children. CT examinations were systematically assessed for any CT findings of purulent infection.

Results: The estimated age at death of the children ranged from about one year to the age of 12-14 years (mean 4.8 years). Twelve children were assessed as male, seven as female and in two sex was indeterminate. Three out of 21 child mummies (14.3%) had radiological evidence of purulent infections. In one mummy, a bandage-like structure at the right lower leg was detected that most likely represented a dressing of a skin lesion.

Conclusions: This study appears to be the first to describe radiologically visualized structures consistent with dried pus in ancient Egyptian mummies. This study also appears to be the first to physically demonstrate an original ancient Egyptian dressing.

Significance: These cases may serve as models for further paleopathological investigation. The evidence of an original dressing contributes to our knowledge of ancient Egyptian medicine.

Limitations: CT was used as the only examination method as sampling of the wrapped mummies was not possible.

Suggestions For Further Research: Radiological-pathological correlation in mummies in which physical sampling is available may reveal further insights into purulent infections in ancient Egypt.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2021.12.002DOI Listing
December 2021

The Lady from Basel's Barfüsserkirche - Molecular confirmation of the Mummy's identity through mitochondrial DNA of living relatives spanning 22 generations.

Forensic Sci Int Genet 2022 Jan 9;56:102604. Epub 2021 Oct 9.

Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac Research, Drususallee/Viale Druso 1, 39100 Bozen, Bolzano, Italy.

The identity of the mummified Lady from the Barfüsser Church in Basel, Switzerland has been unsolved for decades, despite the prominent location of the burial place in front of the choir screen. A recent multidisciplinary research approach came up with a possible candidate, Anna Catharina Bischoff who died in Basel in 1787 with an age of 69 years (1719-1787). To verify the identity of the mummy, genealogists of the Citizen Science Basel discovered three living individuals of the maternal lineage of two different family branches, separated from Anna Catharina Bischoff by up to 22 generations. In this study we compare the ancient mitochondrial DNA of the mummy recovered from a premolar to the mitochondrial DNA of these three candidates. Initially the mitochondrial hypervariable regions I and II of the living individuals were screened using the Sanger sequencing method. This was followed by a mitochondrial capture approach and next generation sequencing to enrich for the whole mitochondrial genome of the mummy and one living person. A full mitochondrial genome has been recovered of both individuals sharing an identical haplotype. The sequence was assigned to the mitochondrial haplogroup U5a1+!16192 including two private mutations 10006G and 16293C. Only by using an interdisciplinary approach combining ancient DNA analysis and genealogy a maternal lineage of a non-noble family spanning 22 generations could be confirmed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fsigen.2021.102604DOI Listing
January 2022

Hallstatt miners consumed blue cheese and beer during the Iron Age and retained a non-Westernized gut microbiome until the Baroque period.

Curr Biol 2021 Dec 13;31(23):5149-5162.e6. Epub 2021 Oct 13.

Prehistoric Department, Museum of Natural History Vienna, Burgring 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria. Electronic address:

We subjected human paleofeces dating from the Bronze Age to the Baroque period (18 century AD) to in-depth microscopic, metagenomic, and proteomic analyses. The paleofeces were preserved in the underground salt mines of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hallstatt in Austria. This allowed us to reconstruct the diet of the former population and gain insights into their ancient gut microbiome composition. Our dietary survey identified bran and glumes of different cereals as some of the most prevalent plant fragments. This highly fibrous, carbohydrate-rich diet was supplemented with proteins from broad beans and occasionally with fruits, nuts, or animal food products. Due to these traditional dietary habits, all ancient miners up to the Baroque period have gut microbiome structures akin to modern non-Westernized individuals whose diets are also mainly composed of unprocessed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. This may indicate a shift in the gut community composition of modern Westernized populations due to quite recent dietary and lifestyle changes. When we extended our microbial survey to fungi present in the paleofeces, in one of the Iron Age samples, we observed a high abundance of Penicillium roqueforti and Saccharomyces cerevisiae DNA. Genome-wide analysis indicates that both fungi were involved in food fermentation and provides the first molecular evidence for blue cheese and beer consumption in Iron Age Europe.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.09.031DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8660109PMC
December 2021

Metagenomic analysis of ancient dental calculus reveals unexplored diversity of oral archaeal Methanobrevibacter.

Microbiome 2021 09 30;9(1):197. Epub 2021 Sep 30.

Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac Research, 39100, Bolzano, Italy.

Background: Dental calculus (mineralised dental plaque) preserves many types of microfossils and biomolecules, including microbial and host DNA, and ancient calculus are thus an important source of information regarding our ancestral human oral microbiome. In this study, we taxonomically characterised the dental calculus microbiome from 20 ancient human skeletal remains originating from Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy, dating from the Neolithic (6000-3500 BCE) to the Early Middle Ages (400-1000 CE).

Results: We found a high abundance of the archaeal genus Methanobrevibacter in the calculus. However, only a fraction of the sequences showed high similarity to Methanobrevibacter oralis, the only described Methanobrevibacter species in the human oral microbiome so far. To further investigate the diversity of this genus, we used de novo metagenome assembly to reconstruct 11 Methanobrevibacter genomes from the ancient calculus samples. Besides the presence of M. oralis in one of the samples, our phylogenetic analysis revealed two hitherto uncharacterised and unnamed oral Methanobrevibacter species that are prevalent in ancient calculus samples sampled from a broad range of geographical locations and time periods.

Conclusions: We have shown the potential of using de novo metagenomic assembly on ancient samples to explore microbial diversity and evolution. Our study suggests that there has been a possible shift in the human oral microbiome member Methanobrevibacter over the last millennia. Video abstract.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s40168-021-01132-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8485483PMC
September 2021

DNA methylation profiling in mummified human remains from the eighteenth-century.

Sci Rep 2021 07 29;11(1):15493. Epub 2021 Jul 29.

Helmholtz-Institute for Biomedical Engineering, Stem Cell Biology and Cellular Engineering, RWTH Aachen University Medical School, Pauwelsstrasse 20, 52074, Aachen, Germany.

Reconstruction of ancient epigenomes by DNA methylation (DNAm) can shed light into the composition of cell types, disease states, and age at death. However, such analysis is hampered by impaired DNA quality and little is known how decomposition affects DNAm. In this study, we determined if EPIC Illumina BeadChip technology is applicable for specimens from mummies of the eighteenth century CE. Overall, the signal intensity on the microarray was extremely low, but for one of two samples we were able to detect characteristic DNAm signals in a subset of CG dinucleotides (CpGs), which were selected with a stringent processing pipeline. Using only these CpGs we could train epigenetic signatures with reference DNAm profiles of multiple tissues and our predictions matched the fact that the specimen was lung tissue from a 28-year-old woman. Thus, we provide proof of principle that Illumina BeadChips are applicable for DNAm profiling in ancient samples.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-95021-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8322318PMC
July 2021

The elusive parasite: comparing macroscopic, immunological, and genomic approaches to identifying malaria in human skeletal remains from Sayala, Egypt (third to sixth centuries AD).

Archaeol Anthropol Sci 2021 14;13(7):115. Epub 2021 Jun 14.

Bioarchaeology Department, Austrian Archaeological Institute at the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Franz Klein-Gasse 1, 1190 Vienna, Austria.

Although malaria is one of the oldest and most widely distributed diseases affecting humans, identifying and characterizing its presence in ancient human remains continue to challenge researchers. We attempted to establish a reliable approach to detecting malaria in human skeletons using multiple avenues of analysis: macroscopic observations, rapid diagnostic tests, and shotgun-capture sequencing techniques, to identify pathological changes, antigens, and DNA, respectively. Bone and tooth samples from ten individuals who displayed skeletal lesions associated with anaemia, from a site in southern Egypt (third to sixth centuries AD), were selected. antigens were detected in five of the ten bone samples, and traces of aDNA were detected in six of the twenty bone and tooth samples. There was relatively good synchronicity between the biomolecular findings, despite not being able to authenticate the results. This study highlights the complexity and limitations in the conclusive identification of the parasite in ancient human skeletons. Limitations regarding antigen and aDNA preservation and the importance of sample selection are at the forefront of the search for malaria in the past. We confirm that, currently, palaeopathological changes such as cribra are not enough to be certain of the presence of malaria. While biomolecular methods are likely the best chance for conclusive identification, we were unable to obtain results which correspond to the current authentication criteria of biomolecules. This study represents an important contribution in the refinement of biomolecular techniques used; also, it raises new insight regarding the consistency of combining several approaches in the identification of malaria in past populations.

Supplementary Information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s12520-021-01350-z.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12520-021-01350-zDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8202054PMC
June 2021

A possible case of Langerhans-cell histiocytosis? Differential diagnosis in a rare case from the Late Antiquity Bavaria (Germany).

Int J Paleopathol 2021 06 26;33:270-279. Epub 2021 May 26.

Department of Pathology, Munich Clinic Bogenhausen, Munich, Germany.

Objective: To outline the importance of accurate diagnosis in ancient rare diseases by presenting a possible case of Langerhans-cell histiocytosis.

Materials: Skeletal elements from a well-preserved skeleton of a nine to eleven-year-old, probably female child who lived around 300-400 AD Late Roman Neuburg / Donau (Germany).

Methods: Macroscopic, radiologic, light and scanning-electron microscopic and physical techniques were used.

Results: Resorptive defects, particularly in the cranium, but also in the left hip bone and the right femur, suggest the presence of Langerhans-cell histiocytosis macroscopically and radiologically. The presence of morphological changes along the edges of osteolytic lesions and in the diploic spaces appear to be post-mortem artifacts based on microscopic investigation and elemental analysis.

Conclusions: Re-evaluation of morphological structures and elemental constitution of lesions is critical to differential diagnosis. In the case examined here, the identification of post-mortem structures rules out the former diagnosis of Langerhans-cell histiocytosis. Re-evaluation of cases of rare diseases require applying a range of methods during the analysis, as every single case makes a difference in the numbers of this very small group of diseases.

Significance: This study emphasizes the importance of utilizing different analytical techniques to avoid false diagnoses.

Limitations: Not all morphological features can reliably be diagnosed using microscopic and elemental techniques.

Suggestions For Further Research: In the case of rare diseases that are difficult to diagnose, the widest possible spectrum of techniques should always be used, particularly microscopy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2021.05.005DOI Listing
June 2021

Ancient DNA analysis of rare genetic bone disorders.

Int J Paleopathol 2021 06 7;33:182-187. Epub 2021 May 7.

Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac Research, Bolzano, Italy.

Objective: Review of the current advancements in the field of paleogenetics that provide new opportunities in studying the evolution of rare genetic bone diseases.

Material And Methods: Based on cases from the literature, the genetics of rare bone diseases will be introduced and the main methodological issues will be addressed, focusing on the opportunities presented by the application of aDNA analyses in the field of paleopathology.

Results: Medical literature provides large datasets on the genes responsible for rare bone disorders. These genes, subdivided in functional categories, display important future targets when analyzing rare genetic bone disorders in ancient human remains.

Conclusions: Knowledge on both phenotype and genotype is required to study rare diseases in ancient human remains.

Significance: The proposed interdisciplinary research will provide new insight into the occurrence and spread of genetic risk factors in the past and will help in the diagnostics of these rare and often neglected diseases.

Limitations: The current limitations in ancient DNA research and targeting the disease-causing specific mutations (e.g., somatic or germline).

Suggestions For Further Research: Methodological advancements and candidate gene lists provide the optimal basis for future interdisciplinary studies of rare genetic bone disorders in ancient human remains.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2021.04.009DOI Listing
June 2021

Correlation of atherosclerosis and osteoarthritis in ancient Egypt: A standardized evaluation of 45 whole-body CT examinations.

Int J Paleopathol 2021 06 27;33:137-145. Epub 2021 Apr 27.

Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac Research, Viale Druso 1, I-39100 Bolzano, Italy. Electronic address:

Objective: To correlate atherosclerosis (Ath) and osteoarthritis (OA) in mummies from ancient Egypt.

Materials: Whole-body CT examinations of 23 mummies from the Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Berlin, Germany, and 22 mummies from the Museo Egizio, Turin, Italy.

Methods: Ath was assessed in five anatomical regions by means of preserved arterial calcifications. OA was assessed using the Kellgren and Lawrence (1957) classification.

Results: Statistical analysis revealed no correlation between Ath and total OA. A significant association was found for Ath and the upper limb group for OA grade >1 and for Ath and the lower limb group, consisting mainly of the hip and knee, for OA grade >2 OA.

Conclusions: The association of Ath and advanced OA of the hip and knee is comparable in prevalence to those reported in recent clinical studies, despite the low life expectancy and the different environment and lifestyle of the ancient Egyptians.

Significance: This is the first study to correlate findings of Ath and OA in ancient Egypt statistically. The diseases of Ath and OA are common ailments with enormous and increasing impacts on public health.

Limitations: The large number of cardiovascular diseases was indicated only by arterial calcifications that resisted the post-mortem changes of the mummification process. Also, the assessed OA was on radiological OA.

Suggestions For Further Research: Genomic studies of ancient Egyptian mummies may reveal genetic risk factors for Ath and OA that could be shared in ancient and modern populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2021.04.004DOI Listing
June 2021

Verification of tuberculosis infection among Vác mummies (18th century CE, Hungary) based on lipid biomarker profiling with a new HPLC-HESI-MS approach.

Tuberculosis (Edinb) 2021 01 8;126:102037. Epub 2020 Dec 8.

Department of Biological Anthropology, Faculty of Science and Informatics, University of Szeged, Hungary. Postal address: Közép fasor 52, H-6726, Szeged, Hungary. Electronic address:

Tuberculosis (TB) was a large burden of infections that peaked during the 19th century in Europe. Mummies from the 18th century CE, discovered in the crypt of a church at Vác, Hungary, had high TB prevalence, as revealed by amplification of key fragments of TB DNA and genome-wide TB analysis. Complementary methods are needed to confirm these diagnoses and one approach uses the identification of specific lipid biomarkers, such as TB mycocerosic acids (MCs). Previously, MC derivatives were profiled by specialised gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), so an alternative more direct approach has been developed. Underivatized MCs are extracted and analysed by high-performance liquid chromatography linked to a mass spectrometer, in heated electrospray ionisation mode (HPLC-HESI-MS). The method was validated using representatives of the Mycobacterium tuberculosis complex and other mycobacteria and tested on six Vác mummy cases, previously considered positive for TB infection. Analysing both rib and soft tissue samples, four out of six cases gave profiles of main C32 and major C29 and C39 mycocerosates correlating well with those of M. tuberculosis. Multidisciplinary methods are needed in the diagnosis of ancient tuberculosis; this new protocol accesses important confirmatory evidence, as demonstrated by the confirmation of TB in the Vác mummies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tube.2020.102037DOI Listing
January 2021

Decorated bodies for eternal life: A multidisciplinary study of late Roman Period stucco-shrouded portrait mummies from Saqqara (Egypt).

PLoS One 2020 4;15(11):e0240900. Epub 2020 Nov 4.

German Mummy Project, Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim, Germany.

This study focuses on the multidisciplinary investigation of three stucco-shrouded mummies with mummy portrait from Egypt dating from the late 3rd to the middle of the 4th century AD, corresponding to the late Roman Period. These three mummies were excavated in the early 17th and late 19th centuries in the Saqqara necropolis near the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. Two of them experienced an interesting collection history, when they became part of the collection of the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland August II in Dresden, Germany, in 1728. The investigation includes information about the mummies' discovery, collection history and shroud decoration obtained through Egyptological expertise. In addition, information on the state of preservation, technique of artificial mummification, age at death, sex, body height and health of the deceased was achieved through computed tomography (CT) analysis. Research yielded an adult male, a middle-aged female and a young female. Due to the rather poorly preserved bodies of the male and middle-aged female, a specific technique of artificial mummification could not be ascertained. Brain and several internal organs of the well-preserved young female were identified. Wooden boards, beads of necklaces, a hairpin, and metal dense items, such as lead seals, nails and two coins or medallions were discovered. Paleopathological findings included carious lesions, Schmorl's nodes, evidence of arthritis and a vertebral hemangioma. The study revealed insights on the decoration and burial preparation of individuals of upper socioeconomic status living in the late Roman Period, as well as comprehensive bioanthropological information of the deceased.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0240900PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7641350PMC
December 2020

Reply.

Ophthalmology 2020 01;127(1):e5

European Academy of Bolzano (EURAC)-Institute for Mummy Studies, Bolzano, Italy.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2019.08.032DOI Listing
January 2020

in ancient human remains.

World J Gastroenterol 2019 Nov;25(42):6289-6298

Institute for Mummy Studies, EURAC Research, Bolzano 39100, Italy.

The bacterium () infects the stomachs of approximately 50% of all humans. With its universal occurrence, high infectivity and virulence properties it is considered as one of the most severe global burdens of modern humankind. It has accompanied humans for many thousands of years, and due to its high genetic variability and vertical transmission, its population genetics reflects the history of human migrations. However, especially complex demographic events such as the colonisation of Europe cannot be resolved with population genetic analysis of modern strains alone. This is best exemplified with the reconstruction of the 5300-year-old genome of the Iceman, a European Copper Age mummy. Our analysis provided precious insights into the ancestry and evolution of the pathogen and underlined the high complexity of ancient European population history. In this review we will provide an overview on the molecular analysis of in mummified human remains that were done so far and we will outline methodological advancements in the field of ancient DNA research that support the reconstruction and authentication of ancient genome sequences.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3748/wjg.v25.i42.6289DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6861846PMC
November 2019

The Prevotella copri Complex Comprises Four Distinct Clades Underrepresented in Westernized Populations.

Cell Host Microbe 2019 11 10;26(5):666-679.e7. Epub 2019 Oct 10.

CIBIO Department, University of Trento, 38123 Trento, Italy. Electronic address:

Prevotella copri is a common human gut microbe that has been both positively and negatively associated with host health. In a cross-continent meta-analysis exploiting >6,500 metagenomes, we obtained >1,000 genomes and explored the genetic and population structure of P. copri. P. copri encompasses four distinct clades (>10% inter-clade genetic divergence) that we propose constitute the P. copri complex, and all clades were confirmed by isolate sequencing. These clades are nearly ubiquitous and co-present in non-Westernized populations. Genomic analysis showed substantial functional diversity in the complex with notable differences in carbohydrate metabolism, suggesting that multi-generational dietary modifications may be driving reduced prevalence in Westernized populations. Analysis of ancient metagenomes highlighted patterns of P. copri presence consistent with modern non-Westernized populations and a clade delineation time pre-dating human migratory waves out of Africa. These findings reveal that P. copri exhibits a high diversity that is underrepresented in Western-lifestyle populations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chom.2019.08.018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6854460PMC
November 2019

Perimortem sharp force trauma in an individual from the early medieval cemetery of Säben-Sabiona in South Tyrol, Italy.

Int J Paleopathol 2019 12 24;27:46-55. Epub 2019 Sep 24.

Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac research, Viale Druso 1, 39100 Bolzano, Italy. Electronic address:

Objective: To provide a detailed analysis and interpretation of cranial and postcranial lesions noted on an early medieval skeleton from the Italian Alps.

Materials: Individual (SK63) was buried within the early Christian church (5-8 centuries AD) of Säben-Sabiona in South Tyrol (Italy).

Methods: The skeleton underwent macroscopic, microscopic and metric analyses.

Results: SK63 was a 19-25 year old male, the analysis identified at least 29 lesions, consisting of three possible antemortem injuries and 26 perimortem sharp force injuries on the cranium (n = 4) and postcranium (n = 22).

Conclusions: The trauma pattern observed indicates that different bladed weapons were used and interpersonal violence rather than a large-scale conflict led to the death of SK63.

Significance: The present findings provide novel information on violent interpersonal interactions in early medieval Säben-Sabiona, Italy.

Limitations: The sequence of the inflicted injuries was not reconstructed.

Suggestions For Further Research: Future interdisciplinary investigations (i.e., 3D imaging and reconstructions) will provide a better understanding of the possible types of weapons used to inflict injuries, the required forces to create the lesions, as well as the directions of impact.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2019.07.005DOI Listing
December 2019

The Current Situation of the Tyrolean Iceman.

Gerontology 2019 10;65(6):699-706. Epub 2019 Sep 10.

Institute for Mummy Studies, Eurac Research, Bolzano, Italy.

The Tyrolean Iceman, commonly known as Ötzi, is the world's oldest glacier mummy and one of the best investigated ancient human remains in the world. Since the discovery of the 5,300-year-old Copper Age individual in 1991, in a glacier in the Eastern Italian Alps, a variety of morphological, biochemical, and molecular analyses have been performed that revealed important insights into his origin, his life habits, and the circumstances surrounding his demise. In more recent research, the mummy was subjected to cutting-edge modern research methodologies currently focusing on high-throughput sequence analysis of ancient biomolecules (DNA, proteins, lipids) that are still preserved in the mummified tissues. This application of innovative "-omics" technologies revealed novel insights on the ancestry, disease predisposition, diet, and the presence of pathogens in the glacier mummy. In this review, the most important and actual results of the molecular studies will be highlighted.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000501878DOI Listing
April 2020

The Eyes of Oetzi: The Tyrolean Iceman Mummy.

Ophthalmology 2019 04;126(4):530

Department of Radiology, Trauma Center Murnau and Institute of Biomechanics, Trauma Center Murnau and Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg, Murnau, Germany.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2019.01.010DOI Listing
April 2019

Mitogenomic data indicate admixture components of Central-Inner Asian and Srubnaya origin in the conquering Hungarians.

PLoS One 2018 18;13(10):e0205920. Epub 2018 Oct 18.

Department of Genetics, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary.

It has been widely accepted that the Finno-Ugric Hungarian language, originated from proto Uralic people, was brought into the Carpathian Basin by the conquering Hungarians. From the middle of the 19th century this view prevailed against the deep-rooted Hungarian Hun tradition, maintained in folk memory as well as in Hungarian and foreign written medieval sources, which claimed that Hungarians were kinsfolk of the Huns. In order to shed light on the genetic origin of the Conquerors we sequenced 102 mitogenomes from early Conqueror cemeteries and compared them to sequences of all available databases. We applied novel population genetic algorithms, named Shared Haplogroup Distance and MITOMIX, to reveal past admixture of maternal lineages. Our results show that the Conquerors assembled from various nomadic groups of the Eurasian steppe. Population genetic results indicate that they had closest connection to the Onogur-Bulgar ancestors of Volga Tatars. Phylogenetic results reveal that more than one third of the Conqueror maternal lineages were derived from Central-Inner Asia and their most probable ultimate sources were the Asian Scythians and Asian Huns, giving support to the Hungarian Hun tradition. The rest of the lineages most likely originated from the Bronze Age Potapovka-Poltavka-Srubnaya cultures of the Pontic-Caspian steppe. Available data imply that the Conquerors did not have a major contribution to the gene pool of the Carpathian Basin.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0205920PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6193700PMC
April 2019

Ancient genome-wide analyses infer kinship structure in an Early Medieval Alemannic graveyard.

Sci Adv 2018 09 5;4(9):eaao1262. Epub 2018 Sep 5.

Institute for Mummy Studies, EURAC Research, Viale Druso 1, 39100 Bolzano, Italy.

From historical and archeological records, it is posited that the European medieval household was a combination of close relatives and recruits. However, this kinship structure has not yet been directly tested at a genomic level on medieval burials. The early 7th century CE burial at Niederstotzingen, discovered in 1962, is the most complete and richest example of Alemannic funerary practice in Germany. Excavations found 13 individuals who were buried with an array of inscribed bridle gear, jewelry, armor, and swords. These artifacts support the view that the individuals had contact with France, northern Italy, and Byzantium. This study analyzed genome-wide sequences recovered from the remains, in tandem with analysis of the archeological context, to reconstruct kinship and the extent of outside contact. Eleven individuals had sufficient DNA preservation to genetically sex them as male and identify nine unique mitochondrial haplotypes and two distinct Y chromosome lineages. Genome-wide analyses were performed on eight individuals to estimate genetic affiliation to modern west Eurasians and genetic kinship at the burial. Five individuals were direct relatives. Three other individuals were not detectably related; two of these showed genomic affinity to southern Europeans. The genetic makeup of the individuals shares no observable pattern with their orientation in the burial or the cultural association of their grave goods, with the five related individuals buried with grave goods associated with three diverse cultural origins. These findings support the idea that not only were kinship and fellowship held in equal regard: Diverse cultural appropriation was practiced among closely related individuals as well.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aao1262DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6124919PMC
September 2018

Possible evidence for care and treatment in the Tyrolean Iceman.

Int J Paleopathol 2019 06 8;25:110-117. Epub 2018 Aug 8.

Department of Anatomy, Histology and Anthropology, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania.

The Tyrolean Iceman is the world's oldest glacier mummy. He was found in September 1991 in the Italian part of the Ötztal Alps. Since his discovery a variety of morphological, radiological and molecular analyses have been performed that revealed detailed insights into his state of health. Despite the various pathological conditions found in the Iceman, little is known about possible forms of care and treatment during the Copper Age in Northern Italy. A possible approach to this topic is the presence of tattoos on the mummified body. In previous work, it was already believed that the tattoos were administered as a kind of treatment for his lower back pain and degenerative joint disease of his knees, hip and wrist. In other studies, the tattoos of the Iceman have been related to an early form of acupuncture. We carefully re-evaluated the various health issues of the Iceman, including joint diseases, gastrointestinal problems and arterial calcifications and compared them to the location and number of tattoos. Together with the finding of medically effective fungi and plants, such as the birch polypore or fern in his equipment and intestines, we suggest that care and treatment was already common during the Iceman's time.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2018.07.006DOI Listing
June 2019

The Iceman's Last Meal Consisted of Fat, Wild Meat, and Cereals.

Curr Biol 2018 07 12;28(14):2348-2355.e9. Epub 2018 Jul 12.

SLING, Life Sciences Institute, National University of Singapore, Singapore; Department of Biochemistry, National University of Singapore, Singapore.

The history of humankind is marked by the constant adoption of new dietary habits affecting human physiology, metabolism, and even the development of nutrition-related disorders. Despite clear archaeological evidence for the shift from hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture in Neolithic Europe [1], very little information exists on the daily dietary habits of our ancestors. By undertaking a complementary -omics approach combined with microscopy, we analyzed the stomach content of the Iceman, a 5,300-year-old European glacier mummy [2, 3]. He seems to have had a remarkably high proportion of fat in his diet, supplemented with fresh or dried wild meat, cereals, and traces of toxic bracken. Our multipronged approach provides unprecedented analytical depth, deciphering the nutritional habit, meal composition, and food-processing methods of this Copper Age individual.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2018.05.067DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6065529PMC
July 2018

Evidence of aortic dissection and Marfan syndrome in a mummy from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily.

Int J Paleopathol 2018 09 8;22:78-85. Epub 2018 Jun 8.

Department of Anatomy, Histology and Anthropology, Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius University, M.K. Čiurlionio 21, LT-03101, Vilnius, Lithuania. Electronic address:

The authors report on the assessment of an anthropogenic mummy of a young man from the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Sicily, tentatively dated from the mid- to late 19 century AD. The mummy was investigated by full-body CT examination. CT images clearly showed aortic dissection classified as Stanford-A. Due to the relation of aortic dissection to inherited connective tissue diseases in young people, such as Marfan syndrome, conspicuous and pathological findings possibly indicating the presence of underlying Marfan syndrome were assessed. Several systemic features were scored that supported the presence of underlying Marfan syndrome in this mummy. These findings were: pectus carinatum and chest asymmetry, dural ectasia, protrusio acetabuli, dolichocephaly, down-slanting palpebral fissures, malar hypoplasia and (probable) reduced elbow extension. Aortic dissection, a cardinal feature of Marfan syndrome, turned out to be the diagnostic key for the paleoradiological diagnosis of this disease. The demonstrated CT findings contribute to the spectrum of cardiovascular diseases and inherited connective tissue disease in the fields of paleopathology and paleoradiology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2018.05.002DOI Listing
September 2018

CT checklist and scoring system for the assessment of soft tissue preservation in human mummies: application to catacomb mummies from Palermo, Sicily.

Int J Paleopathol 2018 Mar 3;20:50-59. Epub 2018 Feb 3.

Department of Anatomy, Histology and Anthropology, Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius University, M.K. Čiurlionio 21, LT-03101, Vilnius, Lithuania. Electronic address:

In this study we applied the recently developed "Checklist and Scoring System for the Assessment of Soft Tissue Preservation in Human Mummies" to catacomb mummies from Palermo, Sicily. Data from twenty-three full-body computed tomography (CT) examinations were available. These consisted of seventeen adults and six children dating from the late 18th to the late 19th centuries AD. Seventeen of these mummies were anthropogenically mummified, and six spontaneously. Based on the checklist and scoring system, soft tissue preservation varied between both mummification groups, among mummies with the same type of mummification, and within individual mummies at different anatomical locations. Checkpoints of the main category "A. Soft Tissues of Head and Musculoskeletal System" were clearly more frequent than checkpoints of the main category "B. Organs and Organ Systems". Among the anthropogenic mummies, intra-arterial filling achieved the highest preservation status of organs and organ systems. Despite the small sample size, the statistical evaluation showed significant differences between mummification types, with the highest soft tissue preservation found in anthropogenic mummies. Application of the "Checklist" allowed a standardized assessment and documentation of the soft tissue preservation of these mummies. The "Scoring System" facilitated a comparison among mummification groups and mummies by means of numeric values.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2018.01.003DOI Listing
March 2018

The Sommersdorf mummies-An interdisciplinary investigation on human remains from a 17th-19th century aristocratic crypt in southern Germany.

PLoS One 2017 31;12(8):e0183588. Epub 2017 Aug 31.

Department of Physical Anthropology, Institute of Forensic Medicine, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

Sommersdorf Castle (Bavaria, Germany) is a medieval castle complex which has been inhabited by the aristocratic family von Crailsheim. The deceased were entombed in a crypt located in the parapets underneath the castle's church, resulting in mummification of the bodies. Based on the family chronicle and oral history, identities have been ascribed to the mummies. The aim of the study is therefore to test the accuracy of the historical records in comparison to archaeological, anthropological and genetic data. Today, the crypt houses eleven wooden coffins from the 17th to 19th century AD. In ten of these, mummified and scattered human remains were found. Archive records were studied in order to identify names, ancestry, titles, occupation, date of birth and death, and place of interment of the individuals. The coffins were visually inspected and dated by typo-chronology, and the mummified and scattered skeletal remains were subjected to a physical anthropological examination. In total, the crypt contains the remains of a minimum number of nine individuals, among them three adult males, five adult females and one infant. A detailed scientific examination, including prior conservation, ancient DNA analyses, and computed tomography (CT), was performed on five mummies. By means of the CT data age at death, sex, body height, pathologies, and anatomical variants were investigated. CT analysis further showed that the bodies were naturally mummified. Mitochondrial DNA analyses revealed that the tested individuals are not maternally related. In addition, health, living conditions and circumstances of death of the entombed individuals could be highlighted. Being confronted with the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of each methodological approach, probable identification was achieved in two cases.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0183588PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5578507PMC
October 2017

Checklist and Scoring System for the Assessment of Soft Tissue Preservation in CT Examinations of Human Mummies: Application to the Tyrolean Iceman.

Rofo 2017 Dec 23;189(12):1152-1160. Epub 2017 Aug 23.

EURAC-Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, Bolzano, Italy.

 Soft tissues make a skeleton into a mummy and they allow for a diagnosis beyond osteology. Following the approach of structured reporting in clinical radiology, a recently developed checklist was used to evaluate the soft tissue preservation status of the Tyrolean Iceman using computed tomography (CT). The purpose of this study was to apply the "Checklist and Scoring System for the Assessment of Soft Tissue Preservation in CT Examinations of Human Mummies" to the Tyrolean Iceman, and to compare the Iceman's soft tissue preservation score to the scores calculated for other mummies.  A whole-body (CT) (SOMATOM Definition Flash, Siemens, Forchheim, Germany) consisting of five scans, performed in January 2013 in the Department of Radiodiagnostics, Central Hospital, Bolzano, was used (slice thickness 0.6 mm; kilovolt ranging from 80 to 140). For standardized evaluation the "CT Checklist and Scoring System for the Assessment of Soft Tissue Preservation in Human Mummies" was used.  All checkpoints under category "A. Soft Tissues of Head and Musculoskeletal System" and more than half in category "B. Organs and Organ Systems" were observed. The scoring system accounted for a total score of 153 (out of 200). The comparison of the scores between the Iceman and three mummy collections from Vilnius, Lithuania, and Palermo, Sicily, as well as one Egyptian mummy resulted in overall higher soft tissue preservation scores for the Iceman.  Application of the checklist allowed for standardized assessment and documentation of the Iceman's soft tissue preservation status. The scoring system allowed for a quantitative comparison between the Iceman and other mummies. The Iceman showed remarkable soft tissue preservation.   · The approach of structured reporting can be transferred to paleoradiology.. · The checklist allowed for standardized soft tissue assessment and documentation.. · The scoring system facilitated a quantitative comparison among mummies.. · Based on CT, the Tyrolean Iceman demonstrated remarkable soft tissue preservation.. · Panzer S, Pernter P, Piombino-Mascali D et al. Checklist and Scoring System for the Assessment of Soft Tissue Preservation in CT Examinations of Human Mummies: Application to the Tyrolean Iceman. Fortschr Röntgenstr 2017; 189: 1152 - 1160.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1055/s-0043-116668DOI Listing
December 2017

Absence of evidence or evidence of absence? A discussion on paleoepidemiology of neoplasms with contributions from two Portuguese human skeletal reference collections (19th-20th century).

Int J Paleopathol 2018 06 18;21:83-95. Epub 2017 Mar 18.

Laboratory of Forensic Anthropology, Department of Life Sciences/Center of Functional Ecology, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.

Biological, sociocultural, demographic and environmental factors are major contributors to the contemporary burden of oncological diseases. Although cancer's current epidemiological landscape is fairly well known, its past occurrence and history seem more obscure. In order to test the hypothesis that paleopathological diagnosis is an adequate measure of the prevalence of malignant neoplasms in human remains, 131 skeletons (78 females, 53 males, age-at-death range: 15-93 years) from Coimbra and Lisbon Identified Skeletal Collections, 19th/20th century (Portugal), were examined. The cause of death for all of the selected skeletons was a malignant neoplasm, as recorded in the collection's documental files. Through the application of standard paleopathological protocols, it was determined that 17.6% (n = 23) of the skeletons had unequivocal osseous signs of metastatic and/or neoplastic lesions. Forty-five percent (n = 59) had manifest osseous lesions, however the lesional patterns were not clearly pathognomonic. Although all of the analyzed individuals were documented as having succumbed to malignant neoplastic disease, a total of 37.4% (n = 49) of the individuals did not exhibit osseous abnormalities. Individuals with breast cancer often exhibited lesions. This study presents a quantitative estimate of the accuracy of paleopathological diagnosis; as well as a theoretical reflection on the burden of cancer in the past. We emphasize the need for a paradigm shift while thinking about the future of paleo-oncology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijpp.2017.03.005DOI Listing
June 2018

miRNAs in Ancient Tissue Specimens of the Tyrolean Iceman.

Mol Biol Evol 2017 04;34(4):793-801

Medical Faculty, Institute of Human Genetics, Saarland University, Homburg, Germany.

The analysis of nucleic acids in ancient samples is largely limited to DNA. Small noncoding RNAs (microRNAs) are known to be evolutionary conserved and stable. To gain knowledge on miRNAs measured from ancient samples, we profiled microRNAs in cryoconserved mummies. First, we established the approach on a World War One warrior, the "Kaiserjäger", which has been preserved for almost one century. Then, we profiled seven ancient tissue specimens including skeletal muscle, stomach mucosa, stomach content and two corpus organ tissues of the 5,300-year-old copper age mummy Iceman and compared these profiles to the presence of organ-specific miRNAs in modern tissues. Our analyses suggest the presence of specific miRNAs in the different Iceman's tissues. Of 1,066 analyzed human miRNAs, 31 were discovered across all biopsies and 87 miRNAs were detected only in a single sample. To check for potential microbiological contaminations, all miRNAs detected in Iceman samples and not present in ancient samples were mapped to 14,582 bacterial and viral genomes. We detected few hits (3.9% of miRNAs compared with 3.6% of miRNAs). Interestingly, the miRNAs with higher abundance across all ancient tissues were significantly enriched for Guanine (P value of 10-13) and Cytosine (P value of 10-7). The same pattern was observed for modern tissues. Comparing miRNAs measured from ancient organs to modern tissue patterns highlighted significant similarities, e.g., for miRNAs present in the muscle. Our first comprehensive analysis of microRNAs in ancient human tissues indicates that these stable molecules can be detected in tissue specimens after 5,300 years.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/molbev/msw291DOI Listing
April 2017
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