The Iceman’s body is covered with 61 tattoos.
They have the form of groups of lines or crosses. Unlike modern tattooing methods, the tattoos were not produced with needles but by means of fine incisions into which charcoal was rubbed.
Most of Ötzi’s tattoos are located on parts of his body that must have caused him pain during his lifetime due to degeneration or disease.
The tattoos were therefore primarily intended as therapeutic measures rather than as symbols. There is little doubt that the Iceman underwent pain-relieving treatment on multiple occasions.
One or several groups of vertical lines are located to the left and right of the spinal column, on the left calf, on the right instep and on the inner and outer ankle joint and – as was recently discovered − on the chest at the height of the lowermost right rib. Two lines also run across the left wrist. A cross-shaped tattoo appears on the back of the right knee and next to the left Achilles tendon.
Astonishingly, many of the tattooed areas correspond to skin acupuncture lines. Before Ötzi it was thought that this art of healing had only originated two thousand years later in Asia.