This 5,300-year-old mummy is perhaps not only the most famous mummy in Europe, but also one of the most important finds for those studying the world history of tattoos.
The meaning of these tattoos has been debated since its discovery by the two hikers. Many Ãtzi tattoos have been found to be lines drawn along areas such as the lower back, knees, wrists, and ankles, areas where people most often feel continuous pain
as they get older. Some researchers believe that these tattoos are an ancient pain treatment
. Various herbs known to have medicinal properties have been found near Ãtzi’s resting place, giving this theory even more credence.
However, not all of Ãtzi’s tattoos were on areas usually affected by everyday wear and tear on the joints. tzi too tattoos worn on his chest
. Theories of purpose behind this tattoo set, discovered thanks to new imaging techniques in 2015
, go from the beginning acupuncture or ceremonial healing rituals
be part of a ritual or religious belief system
Of course, the idea that Ãtzi’s tattoos may have held deep cultural or religious significance to him and his people is not without reason. As a tattoo historian and scholar, I have seen how tattoos have historically been used to healing ceremony
, religious rites
and show belonging to both cultural and religious groups
in the ancient world and until modern times.
The mummified remains of women in Egypt
shows tattoos dating from 2000 BC.
In both cases, the tattoos were a series of dots, often applied as a protective net over a woman’s abdomen. There were also tattoos of the Egyptian goddess Bes, considered the protector of women in labor, on a woman’s upper thigh. In both cases, these ancient tattoos were seen as a kind of protective talisman for women who were about to give birth.
The first Greek historian Herodotus
discussed how the runaway slaves at Canopus intentionally tattooed
themselves both as a means of concealing the markings made on them by their masters and out of religious devotion.
These new marks were often used to symbolize that these men and women no longer served their earthly slave masters, but were now in the service of a certain god or goddess
Tattoos across many religions
The early Christian apostle Paul is recorded in the Bible in Galatians 6:17
as saying, “From now on, let no one disturb me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The original word used for “marks” was the word “stigmata”, which was often seen, coming from Herodotus, as the term used to describe tattooing practices.
Many researchers believe Paul’s tattoos were meant
to show his devotion to Christ. Tattoos are said to also help other Christians, who were persecuted by the Roman Empire, to identify him as a believer.
The Maori people of New Zealand practice the art of tattooing Your Moko
for centuries. These tattoos, which are still practiced today, have deep cultural significance and history. Tattoos not only convey a person’s social status, family identification, and personal accomplishments, but also have spiritual significance with designs containing protective talismans and calling upon the spirits to protect the wearer.
Several Native American and First Nations tribes in North America have a long history of wearing sacred tattoos
. In 1878, the first anthropologist James swan wrote several essays
about the Haida people he met around Port Townsend, Washington.
In A try
he clarified that tattoos were more than ornamental, with each motif having a sacred purpose. He also clarified that those who did the tattoos were considered spiritual leaders or holy people.
The ancient Aztec god of sun, wind, learning, and air, Quetzalcoatl, is often depicted as having tattoos in ancient reliefs
. The Aztecs themselves practiced religious tattooing, with their priests often in charge of various forms of body art and modification. West African countries such as Togo and Burkina Faso
have used and continue to use tattoos and ritual body modifications as sacred rites of passage.
In modern times, people all over the world can still be seen wearing sacred tattoos with religious significance.
Whether it is a member of Kalinga Province in the Philippines receiving a mambabatok tattoo, a traditional motif design made with a single needle, from the oldest known living tattoo artist, Whang-Od Oggay, 102 years old
, to the countless crosses, bible verses and other symbols of Christianity
that can be seen in the United States, tattoos can still have deep religious and spiritual significance.
What the tattoos on Ãtzi’s mummified body of the Ice Man meant to him will most likely remain at least partially a mystery.
But Ãtzi is an important reminder that tattoos have been and continue to be a sacred part of many cultures around the world.
Allison Hawn is a professor of communication education at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Hawn does not work, consult, own stock, or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has not disclosed any relevant affiliations beyond his academic appointment.