The Sciences

The Mark of the Iceman

The LoomBy Carl ZimmerMar 26, 2008 2:06 AM


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Mike writes:

"Otzi was discovered on a glacier in the Austrian-Italian alps by a couple of hikers - his body was well-preserved along with many of his possessions. On his skin there were something like 50 tattoos, I got 10 of the lines on my back in the same place he had his. -- I figure you can spiff up the facts when you actually blog this. Anyway, Otzi was human, 100% human, 100% genetically identical to modern humans today, genetically identical to us, to me. Despite being the same species, we live in a completely different way than he does. My dad worked in an office for 35 years, all my friends work in offices, I was expected to work in an office... so I got this tattoo to remind me that regardless of what our current, blinkofaneye society expects from me, I'm still a human and whatever choice I make is ok. If I want to cross the alps on foot, that doesn't make me any less legitimate than my office-dwelling friends. I got the tattoo to link me to an ancestral human, to pre-industrial revolution (though unfortunately post-agricultural revolution) people. We can never go back, of course, but as Thoreau wrote, 'There are as many ways to live as radii can be drawn from the center of a circle.'"

Carl: For more on Otzi, the 5300-year old man exposed by our warming climate, see Wikipedia and this tattoo site. This article from 1994 in the New York Times notes that the marks on Otzi's back may have actually been acupuncture rather than some kind of display. But for Mike, it's all tattoo. (Same for Brad Pitt.) Click here to go to the full Science Tattoo Emporium.

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