The discovery was made using an atomic force microscope that examined tissue sections of a wound in the body of the mummy and detected red blood cells.
The body of the Stone Age human has already gone under extensive investigations since his corpse was discovered frozen in an Alpine glacier on the Austrian-Italian border in 1991.
“They really looked similar to modern-day blood samples,” said head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy in Bolzano Professor Albert Zink. “So far, this is the clearest evidence of the oldest blood cells.”
The new investigation also showed that the man now called “Otzi” didn’t freeze to death but lost his life a short time after an arrow shot, said scientists from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich.
The deadly arrow severed a major blood vessel between the rib cage and the left scapula, as well as a laceration on the hand.
“There were no [blood] traces found, even when they opened some arteries, so it was thought maybe the blood had not preserved and had completely degraded, or that he lost too much blood because of the arrow injury” on his back, said Zink.
“Because fibrin is present in fresh wounds and then degrades, the theory that ‘Otzi’ died straight after he had been injured by the arrow, as had once been suggested, and not some days after can no longer be upheld,” he added.