Ancient tattoos may have been used as medicine
2013-10-24 0:00

By Annalee Newitz | io9.com



We know that many ancient peoples practiced tattooing, based on the body art we see represented in figurines and wall carvings. But these tattoos found on the skin of the mummified 5,000-year-old body of ÷tzi the Iceman reveal that body art wasnít just ceremonial.

Over at Archaeology magazine, thereís a fantastic article on ancient tattoos, many of which were incredibly elaborate. But perhaps most fascinating are the tattoos on ÷tzi. Partly thatís because they are our only examples of real-life ancient tattoos. Every other example of ancient tattoos comes from art, and we canít be certain that they show actual tattoo patterns or an idealized version of them. ÷tziís markings reveal how tattoos were made, at least in Copper Age Europe. And they hint at why they were made, too.

Write Jarrett A. Lobell and Eric A. Powell in Archaeology:
÷tziís clothing, tools, and weapons are a remarkable window into the life of a herder or perhaps a chieftain in Copper Age Europe. But it is ÷tziís body itself, almost perfectly preserved by the snow and ice that covered him shortly after his death, that provides unique evidence of early medicine. ÷tzi is covered with more than 50 tattoos in the form of lines and crosses made up of small incisions in his skin into which charcoal was rubbed. Because they are all found on parts of the body that show evidence of a lifetime of wear and tearóthe ankles, wrists, knees, Achilles tendon, and lower back, for exampleóitís thought that ÷tziís tattoos were therapeutic, not decorative or symbolic.

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Read the full article at: io9.com



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