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Modern science tells us that tattooing and other forms of body modification have been around for thousands of years, but it’s a lot more fun to find actual proof that can be examined by human eyes... Exactly the kind of proof provided by the hippest mummy ever found, the Man from Hauslabjoch, or as he’s better known, "Ötzi the Iceman."

Ötzi was discovered in 1991 in the Ötztal Alps (hence the moniker Ötzi) by German tourists Helmut and Erika Simon, who were hiking with friends in the area.  After some dispute, he was found to be on the Italian side of the Italy-Austria border, and following intense examination at Innsbruck University, was placed on display with his artifacts at an archaeological museum in Bolzano, South Tyrol, Italy.

The iceman was estimated to be approximately 5’5″ tall (1.65 meters) and weigh in at around 110 pounds (about 50 kilos, or just under 8 stone). One of the more interesting things about him though, is that the 5,300 year old mummy was found to have several tattoos and ears that had not only been pierced, but stretched as well to about the equivalent of a 0 to 00 gauge. Even more amazingly, the locations of the tattoos suggest that they may have been used for something never before known to exist among bronze age tribes: acupressure type pain relief treatment.

Ötzi was found through examinations utilizing radiological imaging to have osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine and arthritic degeneration of the knee and ankle joints, both forms of orthopedic disease. And interestingly, many of his tattoos line up with these areas, other joints, or modern acupressure points that would be used to relieve arthritis pain. It was more recently discovered through the mapping of his genome that the iceman’s conditions may have been related to DNA containing Borrelia burgdorferi, making him the first known case of human Lyme disease.

Primitive tattoos were often performed by lacerating or piercing the skin and then applying pigments made of soot. The soot could vary in color due to ground minerals at the site of a fire, the types of wood burned, or purposeful inclusion of trace metals or precious stones, as is the case with Ötzi, whose tattoos are slightly bluish in color and made using carbon soot. As with most early tattoo designs, they’re composed primarily of lines and dots with some marks intersecting.

His body modifications may not have been big news in his own time, but Ötzi the iceman is one of the coolest and most significant finds of our time - a tattooed and pierced mummy!

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