Complete mapping of the tattoos of the 5300-year-old Tyrolean Iceman

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Samadelli, M.; Melis, M.; Miccoli, M.; Vigl, E.; Zink, A.
Year of Publication: 2015
Journal: Journal of Cultural Heritage
Volume: 16
Start Page: 753
Issue: 5
Pagination: 753-58
Date Published: 10/2015
Publication Language: eng
Keywords: Anthropology, Archaeology, HMI, Hypercolorimetric multispectral imaging, Mummy, Ötzi, Spectral analysis, Tattoos, Tyrolean iceman

This study documents for the first time the complete mapping of one of the world's most ancient tattoos present on a mummified human body dating back to over 5300 years ago, belonging to the so-called Iceman mummy. For this purpose, we utilised innovative non-invasive multispectral photographic imaging techniques capable of “seeing” in a range from IR to UV. An especially developed innovative software (HMI), which allows to measure and process the spectral reflectance sampled on seven bands with equidistant wavelengths for each pixel of scene acquired, has led us to identify and certify the presence of 61 tattoos divided into 19 groups in various parts of the body. The presence of the tattoos and their precise positioning on the mummy's body shall prove helpful in the future for the in-depth analysis of their relationship with recent scientifically acquired knowledge, to help determine the real function of tattooing in prehistoric times.

DOI: doi:10.1016/j.culher.2014.12.005