Royal Society Publishing

The omnivorous Tyrolean Iceman: colon contents (meat, cereals, pollen, moss and whipworm) and stable isotope analyses

James H. Dickson, Klaus Oeggl, Timothy G. Holden, Linda L. Handley, Tamsin C. O'Connell, Thomas Preston


The contents of the colon of the Tyrolean Iceman who lived ca. 5300 years ago include muscle fibres, cereal remains, a diversity of pollen, and most notably that of the hop hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia) retaining cellular contents, as well as a moss leaf (Neckera complanata) and eggs of the parasitic whipworm (Trichuris trichiura). Based almost solely on stable isotope analyses and ignoring the work on the colon contents, two recently published papers on the Iceman's diet draw ill-founded conclusions about vegetarianism and even veganism. Neither the pollen nor the moss is likely to have been deliberately consumed as food by the Iceman. All the available evidence concerning the Iceman's broad-based diet is reviewed and the significance of the colon contents for matters other than assessment of food intake is outlined.

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