Monday, February 1, 2021

Ancient ink: Iceman Otzi has the world's oldest tattoos

This graphic shows the general location of each of the 61 tattoos on the Iceman’s body. 
(Photograph © South Tyrol Museum of Archeology/EURAC/Samadelli/Staschitz.)

The debate about the world’s oldest tattoos is over—they belong to Ötzi, the European Tyrolean Iceman who died and was buried beneath an Alpine glacier along the Austrian–Italian border around 3250 B.C. Ötzi had 61 tattoos across his body, including his left wrist, lower legs, lower back and torso.

Previously, tattoo scholars were divided: Many believed that a mummy from the Chinchorro culture of South America had the oldest tattoo—a pencil-thin mustache. Recovered from El Morro, Chile, the mummy was believed to be about 35–40 years old at the time of his death around 4000 B.C.

In their paper published last month in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, four researchers, including Lars Krutak, research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, concluded that the Chinchorro mummy is not as old as previously thought.

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