Soot tattoos are a cutaneous condition produced by injections of residual carbon on the needle after flaming of the tip.[1]

Soot tattoo in history

Carbon-based pigments such as soot have been used to create tattoos on human skin all across the world for at least the last 5,300 years. The oldest examples of carbon-based tattooing discovered to date appear as 61 marks on the body of the 5,300 year old Tyrolean ice mummy known as Ötzi, discovered in 1991 near Similaun mountain and Hauslabjoch on the border between Austria and Italy.[2] This is also believed to be the oldest example of all human tattooing. Skin samples from several of the Iceman's tattoos were examined by researchers using optical microscopes, (TEM), energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (EDXS), (EELS), (EFTEM) and electron diffraction.[3] This work determined that Ötzi's tattoos were created using carbon-base pigments derived from soot and ash. Microscopic quartz crystals identified among the carbon particles are believed to have originated from stones around the fireplace where the carbon was collected.

Carbon-based tattoo pigments were used throughout the ancient world,[4] and carbon continues to be a principal ingredient in modern tattoo ink.[5]

See also


  1. ^ Rapini, Ronald P.; Bolognia, Jean L.; Jorizzo, Joseph L. (2007). Dermatology: 2-Volume Set. St. Louis: Mosby. ISBN 1-4160-2999-0.
  2. ^ "Otzi: The Discovery". South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. Retrieved 1 February 2018.
  3. ^ Pabst, M.A.; Letofsky-Papst, I.; Bock, E.; Moser, M.; Dorfer, L.; Egarter-Vigl, E.; Hofer, F. (2009). "The tattoos of the Tyrolean Iceman: a light microscopical, ultrastructural and element analytical study". Journal of Archaeological Science. 36: 2335–2341. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2009.06.016.
  4. ^ Pabst, M.; Letofsky-Papst, I.; Moser, M.; Spindler, K; Bock, E.; Wilhelm, P.; Dorfer, L.; Geigl, J.; Auer, M.; Speicher, M.; Hofer, F. (2010). "Different staining substances were used in decorative and therapeutic tattoos in a 1000-year-old Peruvian mummy". Journal of Archaeological Science. 37: 3256–3262. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2010.07.026.
  5. ^ Wood-Black, Frankie. "Going Skin Deep: The Culture and Chemistry of Tattoos". InChemistry. American Chemical Society. Retrieved 1 February 2018.