Solving Ancient Mysteries with DNA

Kristin Taveira
Meet our oldest FlexFriday visitor ever: Otzi – a 5,300-year-old mummy with a mysterious past. FlexSchool students got to meet Otzi and learn about DNA science on a virtual visit to Cold Spring Harbor Lab.
The visit began in the lab, where our guide, Megan, gave some background about DNA science – with plenty of assists from FlexSchool students, some of whom had extensive knowledge of their own to share. Next Megan gave a live demonstration of a DNA extraction, including how to make DNA visible to the naked eye.

Then it was time to visit the Otzi exhibit, and learn surprising details about his past. Evidence showed that he had brown eyes and brown hair, had tattoos, was murdered by an arrow shot, and was holding a weapon at the time of his death. And DNA evidence also revealed some medical mysteries: Otzi had grain in his diet -- even though his life was thought to predate agriculture -- and he had Lyme disease, which was previously thought to be a disease that arose in modern-day Connecticut!