I want to bring everyone back in time to January of this year, when I meant to post a blog about this and then swiftly forgot to. Everyone knows who Ötzi, the heavily tattooed Ice Man, is and back in January researchers at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Research Academy in Italy uncovered a new tattoo on Ötzi’s body. The new tally for the number of tattoos is now 61.
Researchers did as many in archaeological fields do and borrowed technology from a different discipline. This time researchers borrowed from the art world. The camera used to analyze Ötzi’s mummy was designed to non-invasively search for other paintings beneath valuable works of art. The camera works by capturing various wavelengths of light that go beyond the visible spectrum, from ultraviolet to infrared. This technique allowed researchers to observe the new tattoo, which was black like all of Ötzi’s other tattoos, on skin that has darkened over time. Ötzi’s tattoos were created by making an incision in the skin and adding charcoal mixed with herbs. The tattoos are all designs made with grouped lines. At this time researchers can only speculate if the tattoos have any kind of therapeutic or religious significance. Some do speculate that the placement of the tattoos may indicate that they were linked to treatments for pain based on the location of the tattoos, which are generally near Ötzi’s joints, or on his back. It is believed that Ötzi had during his lifetime maladies associated with his back and various joints.
The newly discovered tattoo is located on Ötzi’s ribcage and there are several interpretations as to why. Dr. Albert Zink, the head of the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman, proposes that the tattoo may indicate that Ötzi suffered from chest pain associated with conditions such as atherosclerosis, which causes plaque buildup in the chest.
Geggel, L. (2015, January 28). Fresh Ink: Mummified Iceman Has New Tattoo. Retrieved March 31, 2015, from http://www.livescience.com/49611-otzi-iceman-mummy-tattoos.html