One of the earliest methods of tattooing is known as soot tattooing, where soot is rubbed into a wound to leave a permanent mark.

For centuries, tattooing was used as a method to treat chronic pain such as migraines or arthritis. Lines, dots, and X’s would be tattooed onto the skin of the inflicted area. We see examples of this on Ötzi, the mummified body of a man discovered in the Ötztal alps in 1991. Ötzi lived between 3400 and 3100 BCE and has 61 tattoos, primarily a series of parallel lines and crosses in areas that correspond to modern acupuncture points.

The first examples of figural tattoos, or tattoos that actually represent objects in everyday life, are those of the Gebelein Mummies, a man and woman from around 3351 to 3017 BCE. These tattoos include a wild bull, a Barbary sheep, and as of yet unidentified S-shapes.

Tattooing has existed in some form or another for thousands of years, and people have gotten them for countless different reasons: cultural, medical, religious, criminal, aesthetic, and much more. Tattoos have a culture of their own, not often spoken about in history books.

Tattooing has carried on to this day, and more often than not there is a story to what someone chooses to get permanently engraved on their body.

The Morrison County Historical Society decided to create an exhibit about this often overlooked art form, and the stories of those who got tattooed. It ran through 2019 at The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum and contained stories from both tattoo artists and tattoo owners alike. Now, the exhibit has become a permanent resident of our online museum.

Click the photos below to find out more!