BIO

Lars Krutak received his Ph.D. at Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution & Social Change in 2009. Since 2003, he has been studying the socioeconomic impacts of tourism and tourism promotion on Indigenous Rarámuri (Tarahumara) arts and crafts vendors living in the Copper Canyon region of Mexico.

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Krutak’s tattoo research culminated in an unpublished Master’s thesis, One Stitch at a Time: Ivalu and Sivuqaq Tattoo, focusing on the traditional tattooing of the St. Lawrence Island Yupiit of Alaska, as well as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

Over his professional career, Krutak worked for several years as a Repatriation Research Specialist at the National Museum of the American Indian, an Archaeologist in the Repatriation Office of the National Museum of Natural History, a Program Specialist at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Indian Arts and Crafts Board where he combated counterfeiting rings, and today he serves as a Tribal Liaison and Emergency Manager at FEMA’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Prior to these positions (1998-2003), he worked in several countries of the former Yugoslavia monitoring democratic reforms and elections for the OSCE. Lars also serves as a volunteer manuscript reviewer for leading academic journals: Journal of Material Culture, Current Anthropology, Journal of Cultural Heritage, Études/Inuit/Studies and Ethnohistory. He is very active curating exhibitions and lecturing about his research. 

In 2002, Krutak embarked on a world tour devoted to recording the lives, stories, and experiences of tattooed Indigenous people. Since then he has worked as an Anthropological Consultant for three National Geographic television documentaries and has appeared as a cultural expert in various other media projects including Ancient Aliens and NETFLIX’s Explained. Lars also hosted the Discovery Channel (USA), Discovery World (Europe), and Discovery Travel & Living (Australia & New Zealand) series “Tattoo Hunter” focusing on Indigenous body modification practices worldwide.  In 2003, he was a co-recipient of the American Book Award in Literature.

Krutak has published more than 90 scientific and popular magazine articles on Indigenous practices of tattooing. His books include: (2007) The Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women, (2010) Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of the Tribal, (2012) Spiritual Skin: Magical Tattoos and Scarification, and (2014) Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity. 

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BOOK EXCERPT

“For thousands of years astonishingly rich and diverse forms of tattooing have been produced by the Indigenous peoples of North America. 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.

TATTOO TRADITIONS OF NATIVE NORTH AMERICA explores the many facets of indelible Indigenous body marking across every cultural region of North America. As the first book on the subject, it breaks new ground on one of the least-known mediums of Amerindian expressive culture that nearly disappeared from view in the twentieth century, until it was reborn in recent decades.”

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Krutak also served as the senior editor for the 2017-18 release ANCIENT INK: THE ARCHAEOLOGY OF TATTOOING published by the University of Washington Press. ANCIENT INK is the first book dedicated to the archaeological study of tattooing, presents new research from across the globe examining tattooed human remains, tattoo tools, and ancient art. It 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 their identities. ANCIENT INK also connects ancient body art traditions to modern culture through Indigenous communities and the work of contemporary tattoo artists.

 

BOOK REVIEWS

“As tattooing has become massively popular, the world has commodified our trade for cash, television shows, magazines, and flash books. Thankfully, every now and then a significant publication comes along that is created by people who know its history and are themselves tattooed. ANCIENT INK is an important book and a must for every library.”

-Henk Schiffmacher, tattoo artist and author, The Netherlands

“Tattooing is as popular today as at any time in human history, and ANCIENT INK will help the layman, as well as the scholar, better understand how we got here.”

-C. W. Eldridge, Tattoo Archive, Winston Salem, North Carolina

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In October 2024, Lars’s new book Tattoo Traditions of Asia: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity will be published by the University of Hawai’i Press. Based on 20+ years of fieldwork and hundreds of interviews with tattoo artists and tattoo bearers, Tattoo Traditions of Asia is the first single volume dedicated to the history, antiquity, and living traditions of Indigenous tattooing across this vast continent.