Bone Workshop

Tattoing with Bone Tools

Apart from the tattooed scythian mummies from the frozen tombs of the Altai (ca. 500 – 300 BC, see e. g. POLOSMAK 1994; ROLLE 1992) the by now oldest evidence for tattooing are some small lines on back and legs of the bronze age ice mummy from the Ötztal in the Alps (around 3300 BC). Since a very sharp bone needle was found within the equipment of the ice man, one hypothesis is that the tattoing instrument might have been from bone (HÖPFEL et al 1992). The tattooist Daemon Rowanchilde and the archaeologist Julian Seeger from Canada replicated and tested the instrument successfully – a strange kind of exprimental archaeology.

Fotos: Julian Seeger & Daemon Rowanchilde

One cultural center of tattooing developed in Polynesia. In New Zealand for instance the Moko, the traditional Maori face tattoos are made with sharp-edged bone blades, the so called Uhi (NELEMAN et al. 1999).