A man got tattoos of a 5,300-year-old man on himself: all for the sake of science

ETzi probably tattooed using the handpoke technique. Etzi, a 5,300-year-old mummy found frozen in the Alps, has long puzzled scientists with its intricate tattoos. The prevailing belief was that these marks were created by rubbing soot into cuts on the skin. However, a new study casts doubt on this version. DiscussA man got tattoos of a 5300-year-old man: all for science© Ferra

The team led by archaeologist Aaron Deter-Wolff conducted a unique experiment. Tattoo artist Danny Riday volunteered to put a variety of tattoos on his leg, using tools such as animal bone, obsidian and even a modern needle.

The researchers carefully documented the healing process and appearance of each tattoo. Having compared the results obtained with Ötzi's tattoos, they identified the main inconsistencies.

A man got tattoos of a 5300-year-old man: all for science© Deter-Wolf et al., Eur . J. Archaeol. , 2024

Contrary to popular belief, research shows that Ötzi's tattoos were not made through incisions. Microscopic analysis revealed features such as jagged line edges and rounded ends that are hallmarks of the handpoke technique.

This technique involves repeatedly piercing the skin with a sharp instrument, allowing pigment to be deposited below the surface. Research shows that Ötzi's tattoos are very similar to those created using this method, possibly using tools such as bone or copper awls.