BBC History Magazine

Q&A

When did people first have tattoos?

We cannot know for certain precisely how old tattooing is as a practice, though the paleoanthropological evidence suggests that it likely emerged around 45,000 years ago, when other symbolic creative behaviours became consistent in humans.

The oldest direct evidence of tattooing we have comes in the form of the preserved body of a Copper Age man named Ötzi, who died around 5,400 years ago in the Austro-Italian Alps.

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