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Upper Paleolithic (10,000 to 38,000 BC)
Tattoo instruments and tools from this period have been found and typically these instruments consist of a disk made of clay and red ochre together with sharp bone needles that are inserted into holes in the top of the disk. The clay disk served as reservoir and source of pigment, and the needles were used to pierce the skin. Clay and stone figurines from this era with engraved designs, which most likely represent tattooing, have also been found.

Oetzi the Iceman tattoo information
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European Iceman Mummy

A Bronze Age tattooed man around 5,500 years old was found in October 1991 between Austria and Italy in the Tyrolean Alps. The Iceman, "Oetzi" is the oldest known human to have medicinal tattoos preserved upon his mummified skin.

(more info & images of Oetzi and his tattoos here)

Cave of the Azil Farmhouse

 Early tools of tattooing
Carved figure showing possible tattoo lines on arms
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Possible early evidence comes from an Upper Paleolithic cave, approximately 12,000 years old, excavated in the Pyrenees Mountains of Southern France, know as the Grottes du Mas d'Azil (or Cave of the Azil Farmhouse).

In 1962, Marthe Péquart published "Grotte du Mas d'Azil (Ariége), Une nouvelle galerie magdalénienne" in Annales de Paléontologie. 48:167-296, pp. 211-214. In that article, the illustration at right appears, showing the tools of tattooing.

Cave at Hohlenstein-Stadel

Germany has a long history of body decoration. In 1988, the carved figure at right was found in a cave at Hohlenstein-Stadel, in Germany and was carbon-dated to 32,000 years old. The carved body had thin lines running across the upper arm.

Tattoo Museum Bibliography, Resources and Links

Europe Tattoo MapSee all European Tattoo Culture Articles here

Additional Resources

NOVA Online -- Transcripts | Ice Mummies: Return of the Iceman

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