Indigenous Tattooing History: An Ancient Tradition – Lars Krutak

lars krutak indigenous tattooing history

Neglected By Anthropologists, Tattooing History Is Relevant As We Revive This Ancient Tradition.


For thousands of years astonishingly rich and diverse forms of tattooing have been produced by the Indigenous peoples of the world. Indigenous tattooing has been practiced across the globe since at least Neolithic times, as evidenced by mummified preserved skin, ancient art, and the archaeological record. Long neglected by anthropologists and art historians, tattooing was a time-honored traditional practice that expressed the patterns of tribal social organization and religion, while also channeling worlds inhabited by deities, spirits, and the ancestors.  But why were individuals undergoing this painful procedure?


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About Lars Krutak

For nearly twenty years, anthropologist and photographer Lars Krutak has been on a mission to document the vanishing world of Indigenous tattooing culture and tattooing history. From Borneo to Benin, India to Indonesia and seemingly all places in between, his research explores these ancient human traditions revealing how this language of the skin exposes individual desires and fears as well as cultural values and ancestral ties that were written the body for all to see.

Krutak began tattoo research in 1996 as a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Trained as an archaeologist and cultural anthropologist, he spent three years exploring the complex symbolism and practice of indigenous tattooing and tattooing history throughout the Arctic.

Krutak’s tattoo research culminated in an unpublished Master’s thesis, One Stitch at a Time: Ivalu and Sivuqaq Tattoo, focusing on the traditional tattooing of the St. Lawrence Island Yupiit, as well as several freelance photojournalism jobs for leading tattoo magazines in Germany, England, and the United States for which Krutak continues to write. Today, Krutak also contributes articles to other international tattoo publications, including Total Tattoo (UK), Tattoo Savage (USA), Z Tattoo (Denmark), Tattoo Magazin (Hungary), and Tattoo Planet (Netherlands).


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