The desire to alter and adorn the human body is universal. While specific forms of body decoration and the motivations for them vary according to region, culture, and era, all human societies have engaged in practices designed to enhance people's natural appearance. One of the most widespread types of body art, tattooing, appears on human mummies by 3200 BCE and was practiced by ancient cultures throughout the world.
Ancient Ink, the first book dedicated to the archaeological study of tattooing, presents new research examining tattooed human remains, tattoo tools, and art. Examples include Predynastic Egyptian tattoo traditions, Iron Age animal motifs of Siberia, Ottoman-era religious imagery of Croatian Catholics, historical and contemporary burik designs of the Philippines, and the modern revival of birthing tattoos in Alaska. This volume contributes to our understanding of the antiquity, durability, and significance of tattooing and human body decoration and illuminates how different societies have used their skin to construct identities, transmit knowledge, and display societal values. Ancient Ink connects ancient body art traditions to modern culture with essays on Indigenous tattoo revitalization and the work of contemporary tattoo artists who employ historical techniques and imagery, demonstrating the pervasiveness of tattooing and its status as a shared human practice.