5,300-year-old mummy reveals how tattooing was once used in healing rituals

5,300-year-old mummy reveals how tattooing was once used in healing rituals
5,300-year-old mummy reveals how tattooing was once used in healing rituals (Photo: South Tyrol Museum of Archeology)

Ötzi the Iceman is one of the most significant discoveries for scholars researching the global history of tattoos. The 5,300-year-old mummy was found on a glacier in the Italian Alps 30 years ago after spending millennia in hiding.

On his body, Ötzi was adorned with 61 tattoos that were incredibly preserved by the glacial climate. The meaning of these tattoos has been debated since their discovery by the two hikers. Many of Ötzi’s tattoos were considered to be lines drawn along areas such as the lower back, knees, wrists and ankles, areas where people most often experience continual pain as they age.

Some researchers believe these tattoos are an ancient treatment for pain. Several herbs known to have medicinal properties have been found in the vicinity of Ötzi’s resting place, giving further credence to this theory.

Interestingly, not all of Ötzi’s tattoos were found in places affected by everyday wear and tear on his joints: some of them were on his chest. Theories about the purpose of these tattoos, which were discovered through imaging techniques in 2015, range from early acupuncture or ceremonial healing rituals to being part of religious beliefs or rituals.

It is not the first time that tattoos are reported in antiquity by scholars. In Egypt, carved and painted figures in tomb reliefs and small carved figurines depicting women with tattoos date from 4000 and 3500 BC

However, what the tattoos adorning Ötzi’s mummified body meant to him will likely remain a mystery. But Ötzi is an important reminder that tattoos have been, and remain, a sacred part of many cultures around the world.

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About Abhishek Pratap

Food maven. Unapologetic travel fanatic. MCU's fan. Infuriatingly humble creator. Award-winning pop culture ninja.

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