How the Iceman was Tattooed:  An Archeology Experiment 

by Julian Siggers and Daemon Rowanchilde

As featured on on The Discovery Channel on MAR 3, 1997

The oldest concrete proof of tattooing has come from the discovery of a man, popularly known as “The Iceman” [Ötzi] who was found in 1991, trapped in glacier on the Austrian/Italian Alps. It was an incredible find — he had been deep frozen for about 5300 years. One of the many fascinating aspects of this frozen individual was that he was tattooed with four groups of simple blue/gray tattoos on his spine, calves and ankles.

The tattoos were very simple: usually made up of lines or a cross. It is quite likely that tattooing was practiced far earlier than this, but archaeologists haven’t, as yet, found the bodies to prove it. As a tattooed archaeologist and a tattoo artist primarily interested in preindustrial tattoos, we found this first evidence of the earliest tattooing intriguing. How was it done and why?

Included in the Iceman’s kit was a piece of sharpened mammalian bone whose point looked like it was stained with a black ink. The archaeologists who studied the Iceman thought that this may have been the tool used to tattoo him. Bone was used to make many types of tools in prehistory - such needles, harpoons, knives - but it is rather soft. 

We decided to conduct a simple experiment to find out just how well some prehistoric tools, which could have been used to tattoo, actually worked. Sharp tools were made out of three materials which prehistoric people used: bone points from a cow femur, antler points from caribou antler and a stone point from flint. The bone and antler needles were ground to a point and the stone needle was chipped into shape. Daemon then used these tools to tattoo a simple design of Julian’s upper back. 

Daemon specializes in tattoos inspired by tribal societies and also has done a number of tattoos using the old tapping technique, that was practiced before the invention of the electric tattooing gun. Daemon’s tattoo art draws influences from the tradition of tattoos from the tribal societies of Borneo and the Pacific Islands. The design of the tattoo was left up to Daemon - he could tattoo a design he felt appropriate to the limitations of the rather crude prehistoric equipment that Julian made.

We had assumed that the best needles would be the ones made of antler and stone, as these materials are stronger than bone. However, this was not the case. The bone tool was by far the most effective. All of the tools could puncture the skin, but only the bone needle pulled the ink below the surface of the skin to leave a mark. What’s more, the bone tool proved to be very strong - it didn’t have to be sharpened once. As you can see from the photographs, it was capable of producing an extremely sharp and fine line tattoo. This may be because the bone needle is more porous than the stone and antler ones, so it could draw the ink under the skin.

Our experiment enabled us to draw two conclusions. First, the Iceman’s tattoo, and in fact most prehistoric tattoos, were probably made with bone tools. Second, the bone tool found in the Iceman’s pouch may well have been the actual one that some of his tattoos were done with. 

Many cultures have engaged in tattooing in one form or another. People get tattoos for a variety of reasons. Sometimes to show their status, to commemorate a rite of passage, to express their membership to a tribe or place or, indeed, for any number of spiritual reasons. In the Iceman’s case, he may have been tattooed for different reasons. He appears to have been tattooed on or near his joints (ankle, knees and spine) where he had signs of arthritis. 

Today, people can be tattooed for therapeutic reasons. Essentially tattooing is a type of acupuncture that leaves a permanent mark. The rhythmic tapping on meridian points may have also had a pain relieving effect, as is now perceived in healing modalities such as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT).  The Iceman was tattooed on exactly the same areas he could have suffered aches and strains from walking and climbing in his Alpine home. X-rays of his bone have revealed that the bones underneath his tattoos were indeed damaged from mild arthritis. Perhaps he carried the bone tattooing needle around with him in case he needed to tattoo himself to relieve any future aches.

Decided to take a break from the cartoon character alphabet dailies to make something a bit more special/important for today’s daily. My best friend TheEnglishGent got into quite the accident last night. He suffered from a bad head injury, but thankfully nothing severe enough to cause any mental damage or anything awful like that. I wanted to take the time to whip something up to show him that I care about him and that I’m super happy to know he’s ok. Rest easy Gent, and may your recovery go well. ;; In the meantime, have some Dhum and Siggers lovin’.~<3

Gent © Himself
Dhum + Siggers © Me

anonymous asked:

Never stop fangirling WWI, except ya know sleep

(like. I’m not sure ‘fangirling’ is the correct word to use. I dunno. Maybe I’m being awkward)

But I shall never stop being enthusiastic about that period of history, anon, don’t you worry. (and nor will I ever stop yelling about Siggers and his ears/lack of driving skills/Wilfred’s terribly obvious crush on said poet)