Let’s Talk About “Iceman Ötzi,” Owner of the World’s Oldest Tattoos

Mountain antique compass and wind rose tattoo

Let’s Talk About “Iceman Ötzi,” Owner of the World’s Oldest Tattoos

Let’s Talk About “Iceman Ötzi,” Owner of the World’s Oldest Tattoos


Strap on your seatbelts and make sure your thinking cap is on good and tight, because y’all mofos are about to get LEARNT.

Scientists have finally decided upon the oldest tattoos ever drawn, and they belong to a dude named Ötzi. Ötzi is just your average guy. He enjoys the finer things in life, like getting tatted and taking casual strolls along the Alps. Oh, and he is believed to have gotten his ink somewhere between 3370 and 3100 B.C.E.

Hikers discovered Ötzi on the Austrian-Italian border in September of 1991. There he was, the oldest known natural human mummy, just chillin’ (pun intended) in some snow and ice. The hikers were so taken back by the mummy that they believed him to be a recently deceased mountaineer. It took eight groups of hikers three days to extract his body, which was frozen in ice below the torso. Medical examiners initially guessed that Ötzi was about four thousand years old, because of the nature of the tools found near his body.

Researchers were eventually able to estimate that Ötzi was about 5 ‘5”, and weighed about 134 pounds at the time of his death. They guessed his age to be around 45. The body was so well preserved in the ice that they were able to analyze his intestinal contents and make a guess as to what his last two meals consisted of. Although he had a depressingly long list of ailments in his final years on Earth, he ultimately died from an arrow to the shoulder.

What most intrigued scientists, however, was Ötzi’s sick ink. The 61 tattoos across his body are mostly lines and crosses (which tells me that he’d be a tribal tattoo kind of guy if he were around today). After further examination, it was revealed that his tattoos were created from pigment manufactured from fireplace ash or charcoal that had been rubbed into fine incisions. Some speculate that the tattooing was related to pain relief treatments similar to acupuncture, while some suggest that the tattoos could be a result of social practices to display status. Whatever the reason, recent research has confirmed that Ötzi is the oldest tattooed human mummy in existence.

Although Ötzi holds this title, he probably won’t for long. This is because his markings were found to be indicative of therapeutic practices that existed long before he was born. It’s highly unlikely that he’s the first tattooed person on Earth—we just have to wait until more tattooed mummies are discovered. In the meantime, we all have an answer as to what our tattoos will look like when we’re older… just as long as we’re frozen in ice and preserved for upwards of 5,300 years.