Frozen moss reveals fatal final journey of 5,300-year-old ice mummy

(CNN)Fresh clues have emerged about the final journey of a European glacier mummy shot dead by an arrow before his body was preserved in ice for thousands of years.

The latest study, published Wednesday in the journal Plos One, examined "subfossils" of pieces of vegetation that had frozen on or around the 5,300-year-old mummy, known as Otzi the Iceman.
Otzi's body was frozen in ice until it was discovered by a couple hiking in the North Italian Alps in 1991. Since then, nearly every part of him has been analyzed -- from what he may have sounded like, to the contents in his stomach and how he died. For the past 25 years, his mummified body has been a window into early human history, providing a peek into what life in the Alpine region was like during the Copper Age.
This new study offers clues about Otzi's route up the glacier. Researchers from the University of Glasgow and the University of Innsbruck recovered at least 75 species of bryophytes, non-vascular plants such as mosses and liverworts, that had been preserved in ice with Otzi. Of these, only 30% are believed to be local to the area -- meaning the rest were transported to the site of his death from elsewhere.
    Researchers believe these non-indigenous plants could have been carried on Otzi's clothing, or perhaps by the dung of large herbivores like the Alpine Ibex, a type of wild goat.
    "They were recovered as mostly small scraps from the ice around him, from his clothes and gear, and even from his alimentary tract," said Jim Dickson, one of the study's primary authors, in a press release from the University of Glasgow.
    "Those findings prompted the questions: Where did the fragments come from? How, precisely, did they get there? How do they help our understanding of the Iceman?"
    Some of these foreign species were identified as mosses that exist today in the lower Schnalstal valley, in the Italian province of South Tyrol -- suggesting that Otzi had traveled along the valley on his climb up the glacier, to his final resting place.
    What a 5,300-year-old mummy wore to his grave