Here are some of the things scientists know so far about Otzi, the frozen Copper Age mummy who was discovered in 1991 in the Otzal Alps: He suffered from parasitic worms, Lyme disease, tooth decay, joint problems, and other ailments. He died in his mid-40s, likely sometime between 3239 and 3105 BCE and likely from a blow to the head. He has at least 19 living relatives somewhere in Austria. His nickname, the Iceman, is a perfectly badass moniker for someone who wore leather leggings and had 60-plus tattoos.
Otzi, who now resides at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano, Italy, was well-preserved enough that the people studying him have even been able to determine his last few meals: grains, goat, and deer (including a few animal hairs—Otzi may not have been the best cook, or the cleanest). Food isn’t the only thing of interest in his stomach, though: In a paper published today in the journal Science, researchers from across Europe and the U.S. reported that a microbe taken from his gut reveals new information about human migration patterns during and after Otzi’s lifetime.
The bacterium, Helicobacter pylori, is found in roughly half of all people alive today. It’s been infecting humans for an estimated 100,000 years, causing ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues in 10 percent of them. The bug is a pain for a lot of people, but a handy tool for scientists, who use its evolution to map the paths of ancient populations as they moved across the globe. Modern strains of H. pylori can be classified into seven different groups based on where in the world they originated: one in Australia, one in Europe, two in Asia, and three in Africa.