Results tagged “Otzi the Iceman”

03:48 PM
mummy tattoo.jpgPhoto credit of Otzi: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/EURAC/Samadelli/Staschitz).

Very exciting news on the tattoo history front: the oldest tattoos known to date do, indeed, belong to "Otzi the Iceman," whose frozen mummified body, with a total of 61 tattoos, was found accidentally, in 1991, by two hikers in the Otztal Alps along the Austrian-Italian border. It is estimated that Otzi died between about 3370 and 3100 BC, and so many deemed him to be the OG of tattooed mummies; however, there was debate among tattoo scholars that Otzi may not have been, and instead, the title could belong to an unidentified South American Chinchorro mummy who was found with a tattooed "mustache." There were a number of questions surrounding the identify and age of that mummy, and so to put the debate to rest, scholars Aaron Deter-Wolf, Lars Krutak, Benoit Robitaille, and Sebastien Galliot collaborated to uncover the identity of the Chinchorro specimen. And they did. But they didn't just stop there. They also compiled a reference list of tattooed mummies from across the globe, demonstrating that Otzi wears the oldest tattoos identified to date.

Their findings were recently published online in Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, and can be downloaded here.

Lead author
Aaron Deter-Wolf also wrote about their research for Redorbit. Here's a bit from that article:

Before officially declaring Otzi to be the oldest tattooed individual, we double checked our data by compiling a list of tattooed human mummies from around the globe. This catalog included at least 49 sites spanning the period between around 3370 BC and AD 1600, and spread throughout the American Arctic, Siberia, Mongolia, western China, Egypt, Sudan, the Philippines, and Greenland in addition to Europe and South America. Some of these finds, such as the Princess of Ukok, the men and women from Burials 2 and 5 at the Pazyryk burial ground, and the woman from Grave 50 at 3-J-23, et-Tereif, Sudan have been well-publicized outside of academia. Others are mentioned simply in passing in early archaeological reports, or appear only in regional and hard-to access journals. A number of sites include multiple tattooed individuals, sometimes numbering in the dozens. In all we were able to identify eleven tattooed mummies greater than 4,000 years old (about 2000 BC). In addition to Ötzi and the Chinchorro man these include seven individuals from Egypt, and two from Russia. To date, Otzi is the oldest of these finds.
As noted in the journal, while Otzi is the oldest of the finds, it is unlikely that he's the first tattooed person on earth. The report explains:

[...] Otzi's 61 marks represent physical actions performed on his body as part of established social or therapeutic practices that almost certainly existed within his culture well before his birth. While other lines of archeological evidence hint that permanent body marking may extend significantly earlier into human history [...] conclusive proof of the antiquity of tattooing has yet to be uncovered. We anticipate that future research including new archeological finds, reanalysis of existing collections, advanced dating techniques, and the application of new imaging technologies in the study of mummified human remains will provide additional data through which to further evaluate this ancient and global practice, and likely provide direct evidence of tattooing antedating 3200 BC.

I highly recommend reading the report. In addition to their findings and tattooed mummy table, there are some great links and references to further reading.
10:46 AM
otzi tattoos.jpg Credit: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology/Eurac/Samadelli/Staschitz.

One of the biggest recent tattoo news stories was about an ancient man and a new discovery about his tattoos. In the excellent report, "Scan finds new tattoos on 5300-year-old Iceman," Aaron Deter-Wolf discusses how a new examination of Otzi the Iceman found a previously unrecorded group of tattoos consisting of "four parallel lines between 20 and 25 mm long and are invisible to the naked eye," which researchers have added to complete the catalog of all of Otzi's tattoos. As Aaron notes, "While the different combinations of lines in Otzi's tattoos may have held some underlying symbolic meaning, it appears that their function was primarily medicinal or therapeutic." Further to this, he discusses Dr. Lars Krutak's writings on Otzi:

In his 2012 book Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification, anthropologist Dr. Lars Krutak documents an experiment in which Colin Dale of Skin & Bone Tattoo in Copenhagen determined that hand-poked tattoos applied to acupuncture points using a bone needle "could produce a sustained therapeutic effect," successfully relieving ailments such as rheumatism, tinnitus, and headaches. [...]

Krutak consulted Gillian Powers (M.Ac., L.Ac.), a licensed acupuncturist in Washington, DC, who reported that acupuncture points near the newly-recorded tattoos "can be used to treat the symptoms associated with whipworms (abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, diarrhea) and gallstones (abdominal pain, nausea/vomiting, etc.), as well as breathing issues." Powers also noted that the location of the new tattoos is in close proximity to the gallbladder itself, and therefore could have additional effects on gallstone pain.
Read Aaron's article here.

Kobane tattoo.jpgFor more on tattoo history, there's a piece recently published, entitled "The Last Tattooed Women of Kobane," which explores the stories behind photojournalist Jodi Hilton's portraits of women from Kobane, Syria, (shown above) and their regional facial tattoos called "deq." It's a fascinating Q&A. Here's a taste:

Many women reported being tattooed by a "nomad" or a "gypsy woman," and these traveling tattoo artists may well have dispersed the tradition. But some of the designs are unique, possibly referring to pre-Islamic religions that are, in some way, still in the hearts of some Kurdish people.

The tattoos are made from soot and breast milk and sometimes gallbladder liquid from a sheep or goat. The design is drawn on the skin and then a series of small punctures are made with a sewing needle. Then the mixture is spread over the design, which scabs over and leaves the tattoo. Most are done between the ages of eight and twelve. One woman even tattooed her own breasts, encircling the nipples with a thin round line.
See more of Jodi's portraits and read her story here

I found it fitting, on this Holocaust Remembrance Day, to share the story of Auschwitz survivor Elie Buzyn and his reflections on the prison number tattoo he received at the hands of the Nazis 70 years ago. He told EuroNews:

"To me, this number was my parents' grave stone. You do not walk around with your grandparents' or parents' grave stone on your back to show 'look, I had my father, my mother, they died here, here is the stone!' For me, symbolically, that's what it was. "And so I decided to take it off, to take it off, but only if I could keep it."

Buzyn kept the piece of his tattooed skin in his wallet for decades. Then one day it was stolen. He was devastated. He even thought about re-tattooing himself. "I had it removed at first because I didn't want it to be a part of me. I wanted to have it by my side. But many years later I realised that the number was a part of a memory that had great significance."
Cosmopolitan mag posted on a beautiful, tear-inducing video (below) featuring Freedom Tattoo, a program in Poland that helps women who were once incarcerated cover their prison tattoos with more artful ones. As one women says, after replacing her crude handpoked work with beautiful roses, "I am a woman. Now I can take another step, and this is fantastic because now I don't have to be locked up anymore in that gray world that held me back." The video made me cry, but I highly recommend taking a look as a reminder at how wonderfully transformative tattoos can be.


06:22 PM

There are few things that I love more than the timbre of a Glaswegian accent and the amazing production-value of RadioLab... So when they focused on James Dickson and his discovery of Otzi the "Tattooed Iceman," I was in podcast heaven.

While they don't spend a lot of time focusing on his extensive tattooing, it's a fascinating piece about forensic archeology (and a reminder that tattoos aren't just for "sailors and bikers").

I would encourage you to stream the podcast here and also read their accompanying blog-post here.

03:40 PM
amanda wachob tattoo.jpgAbstract Tattoo by Amanda Wachob of DareDevil Tattoo.

I got some private messages last week admitting a forbidden love for the truly WTF tattoo galleries linked to in the news review, so before I get to the real newsworthy items, I'll satisfy more guilty pleasures with this first one:

It's a fun photo essay that includes Joe Letz's flying penis tattoo on his leg, the Hawaiian shark teeth on Brent Hind's face, and Jeffree Star's JonBenet Ramsey & Sharon Tate portraits.

To cleanse that frightening bunch outta ya mind, check out the exciting tattoo artistry of Amanda Wachob of DareDevil Tattoo, who experiments with abstract forms and conceptual design but can also do a solid, clean traditional tattoo. I met Amanda at our launch party Friday and she told me about an abstract tattoo project she's working on -- also mentioned on DevilCity Press -- where 8-10 people will be chosen to get a large tattoo, free. More details on that coming up later this week.  

Amanda's conceptual art got me thinking of the lines and dots found on the oldest recorded tattooed person: Otzi the Iceman; however, a recent news item discusses how his tattoos have proved to be medicinal, not aesthetic. The article explains:

"There are groups of one, two, three, four and seven tattoo lines parallel to the longitudinal axis of the body, and so they're parallel to Chinese acupuncture meridians." The cross-shaped tattoo on his knee, and another one on his left ankle, also lay over Chinese acupuncture "trigger points," the researchers believe. Strengthening their argument is the fact that the soot-made markings are located on parts of the iceman's body not typical for tattoo displays, diminishing the notion that they served a more ornamental, aesthetic function.

See a video on how the first tattoos were created.

Despite the millennia of tattoo history, many still think it's an unsavory fad. Here's yet another weekly news item on tattoo discrimination -- this time, an Ohio town does not think tattoos are a "fit."

But this prejudice is not so surprising after also reading weekly stories of idiots who use the art as a gimmick like this guy who got a tattoo to win a PalmPre phone. Of course, with the cost of the tattoo (and subsequent lasering I'm sure), he coulda just bought the PalmPre and been spared our mockery. Mock, mock, mock.

tattoo proposal.jpgSome may also mock this dude above who proposed marriage -- permanently -- but today I'm feelin the love and just grateful that Caroline said "Yes." Now, let's hope the marriage lasts. has a new feature called Tat Chat where they "celebrate body art" and "find folks with interesting tattoos and the often even more interesting stories behind them."

My favorite blog find this past week, however, was post on Carlos Alvarez Montero, and his photographs of the counterculure in NYC and Mexico City -- particularly the heavily tattooed.

Quick & Dirty Link time...

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