Isn't it awesome to know that the people before us were really tattooed? Everyone, meet Otzi: the 5,300 year old glacier mummy.
He was discovered by hikers in 1991 in the Otztal Alps near the Italian-Austrian border that has 61 tattoos!
In September 1991, German tourists Helmut and Erika Simon found Otzi's body as seen in the image above. At first it was thought as a modern corpse but after the body has been examined, x-rayed and sampled microscopically, the corpse revealed a fantastic surprise: it's 5,300 years old already!
At the time of his death, Scientists reveal that Otzi was a 45-50 year old man, approximately 160cm (5"3) tall.
Since Otzi's skin has darkened over time, it wasn't easy to detect all the tattoos. But scientists have already confirmed tattoos of at least 50 in number... some of them taking on the form of crosses & parallel lines that are all black and some were as long as 4cm. Fortunately, an Italian team led by Marco Samadelli of EURAC Research has turned to a non-invasive imaging technique which captures light at different wavelengths (from infrared to ultraviolet) which helped them reveal never-before-seen tattoos that are thousands of years older than us!
Unlike modern tattooing that uses electricity and needles, these were theoretically made by rubbing charcoal into fine incisions.
The tattoos were divided into 19 groups across his body including groups of lines to the left and right of the spinal column, left calf, right instep, inner and outer ankle joint, and on the chest at the height of the lowermost rib. There are also 2 lines across his left wrist and across appears on the back of his right knee, next to the Achilles tendon.
Furthermore, scientists discovered that many of his tattoos are located on parts (such as the lower back and joints) that may have caused him pain due to degeneration or disease suggesting that Otzi might have got them for medical and therapeutic purposes! Many of the inked spots on Otzi seem to correspond to skin acupuncture lines where acupuncture became a form of healing in Asia that originated thousands of years after Otzi's time.
Otzi is currently housed at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Italy. The findings were published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage.
Photo credit: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, EURAC/Samadelli/Staschitz