Ötzi: Iceman’s Tattoos Were Born In Fire
For those familiar [Otzi the Iceman], many are also aware that the oldest mummy found to date has tattoos. And lots of ‘em. Around his ankles, his wrist, his back… lots of small markings around his body that, just recently, were investigated by a team of anthropologists and scientist.
Here are the facts about Otzi’s tattoos:
- The pigment found in Otzi’s dermis is soot. Otzi’s tattoos were born from the remains of a fire.
- On a microscopic level, the soot has traces of iron, phosphorus, and calcium—leading anthropologists to believe the tattoos happened long before Otzi entered the mountains in which he died in.
- Almandine and quartz crystals were also found. If they were intentionally added, it may have given the tattoos a slight glittering effect in bright light. The other explanation is that they were found in the stones in which the soot was extracted.
- Most of the tattoos are made from parallel lines, ranging in 2 to 7 repetitions in one area.
- The fact that most of the tattoos were hidden by clothing indicate that they were not for display. (Other theories suggest that they were to indicate social status.)
- The main theories of Otzi’s tattoos are now that they were pragmatic—specifically, as a cure the arthritis there is proof that he had. Acupuncture treatments for arthritis are recorded in ancient China and even popular today. This theory not only revolutionizes what we understand about art history and medicine, but the historic intersection of art and science.
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