Scientists Map 61 Tattoos On 5,300-Year-Old Body Found Preserved In The Italian Alps

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Scientists Map 61 Tattoos On 5,300-Year-Old Body Found Preserved In The Italian Alps

Scientists have found and mapped 61 tattoos on a mummified corpse dated to be over 5,300 years old. The scientists are hoping that their findings can improve our knowledge of the prehistoric world.


The body of the mummified corpse was found in 1991 by tourists in the Italian Alps, the cold temperature freezing and preserving the body for thousands of years from the Bronze Age to the present. While it was known from the initial discovery that tattoos appeared on the body, they were not particularly clear. Thankfully, new multispectral imaging techniques that differentiate colour in the skin from the colour of the tattoos has given a clearer insight into the body-art.


Earlier studies had suggested around 48 tattoos, but once the new technique was used to investigate that has now risen to 61 separate pieces.


It is widely accepted that the tattoos were created by puncturing the skin and rubbing in charcoal, a primitive but not dissimilar technique to what is used in modern tattooing. Anthropologists usually assume that ancient tattoos generally represented achievements or hierarchy within a group as opposed to being simply for art’s sake or aesthetics. In fact, in this case researchers believe that the tattoos were a primitive form of therapy for an individual who was suffering from a multitude of underlying health conditions. These tattoos, and the tattoo process, could have been used to alleviate joint pain, a form of acupuncture, as most are focused upon the joints and the lower-back.


The new research puts the 61 tattoos into 19 different groups, and all take the form of a series of lines. While it can be strongly argued that they were indeed used for therapeutic purposes we can never be certain, and the tattoos may indeed be social signals.


What we do know for certain is that it was not the ice-man’s underlying conditions that killed him. Clear wounds show that he was shot dead with an arrow either in combat with another group of individuals or accidentally by one of his own.


Tattooing remains one of humanities oldest art forms and multiple bodies on all continents have been found to be covered in the ancient art, bringing insight into the complex cultures of pre-history.


[h/t: Discover]

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Thinking Humanity: Scientists Map 61 Tattoos On 5,300-Year-Old Body Found Preserved In The Italian Alps
Scientists Map 61 Tattoos On 5,300-Year-Old Body Found Preserved In The Italian Alps
Scientists have found and mapped 61 tattoos on a mummified corpse dated to be over 5,300 years old. The scientists are hoping that their findings can
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