LARS gave a public lecture full of great stories and evocative images. I felt we were watching the passing of an age, an age of ancient beliefs and time-honored traditions, and we will not see these things on the Earth ever again. There is a sadness in that passing, but at least the traditions are being documented by people like LARS and they can live on to some degree in the descriptions, oral histories, and photographs he has captured. He reminded me of a young Indiana Jones, but tougher than Indy…he has the tattoos to prove it!”– Gary Morgan PhD, Executive Director, MUSEUM OF TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY

LARS KRUTAK is the Indiana Jones meets David Attenborough of the tattoo world.”– Pete Newstead, BIZARRE MAGAZINE, United Kingdom

“Our audience was captivated by LARS KRUTAK’s lecture on the magical tattoos of Asia, which he fully tailored to complement our new exhibition. He has full command of the material and visually stunning photos and videos to cement the themes. With fascinating personal experiences and an impressive academic background, LARS delivered one of our most popular lectures. It was a great pleasure to work with him, not only as a speaker but as a researcher who made important contributions to our exhibition and members’ magazine.”– Felicia Katz-Harris, Senior Curator, MUSEUM OF INTERNATIONAL FOLK ART, Santa Fe, NM

“Although his credentials and biography abound with accomplishments and academic achievements, LARS, to me, has done as much or more than anyone in the world of tattoo to establish its credibility, its meaning and its history than anyone alive today.” Bob Baxter, SKIN & INK MAGAZINE (USA)

“When it comes to tattoos, anthropologist LARS KRUTAK knows whereof he speaks – his own many traditional hand-tapped, hand-poked, and skin-stitched tattoos and almost 1,000 razor and knife-cut scars testify to his quest for understanding this ancient art form.” – THE SMITHSONIAN ASSOCIATES, Washington, DC

KRUTAK [produces] simply stunning books on both the nature of human beings and their cultures. Totally essential.” – SKIN DEEP MAGAZINE, United Kingdom


For nearly twenty years, I have been on a mission to document the vanishing world of Indigenous tattooing culture. Explore this research in the TEDx talk posted here.


Dr. Lars Krutak (bodymarks.larskrutak@gmail.com) is a researcher of global Indigenous tattooing practices and he is extremely passionate when speaking about it! From Borneo to London, Amsterdam to Alaska, Melbourne to Vatican City and beyond, Lars has lectured to diverse audiences around the world. His keen knowledge about Indigenous culture, spirituality, body modification, and material culture is not only sought after by museums, universities, tattoo conventions, gaming companies, and social networking organizers, but has also garnered the attention of television and the motion picture industry. Lars has appeared on documentaries for The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, National Geographic, Facebook, and Netflix, and consulted on films “The Revenant” and “The Salvation,” among others. Dr. Krutak has presented lectures on numerous topics, including the tattoo history of particular countries and/or regions, but here are a few examples of his most recent work:


This vividly illustrated lecture will explore the tradition of indelible marking among Indigenous peoples and other tattoo communities, past and present. Drawing from the accounts of explorers, historians and anthropologists, as well as Dr. Krutak’s publications and field research, this talk is a record of tattoo artistry and culture presented through interviews, objects, video, and images from around the tattoo world dating from 5000 BCE to the present.

Although this talk examines the history and cultural significance behind ancient and more modern forms of tattooing, it also attempts to establish new ways of seeing and reading the messages encoded in tattooing practices themselves.


In 1777, the word “tattoo” was defined as “an indelible mark or fixture upon the body by insertion of pigment under the skin or by the production of scars.” For thousands of years before that date, however, Indigenous peoples practiced various forms of tattooing and scarification not only to beautify themselves or mark significant life achievements, but also to please or seek protection from particular spirits which inhabited their world. Lars will be your tour guide on this journey into highly sacred territory to reveal how Indigenous people utilize ritual body modification to enhance their access to the supernatural.

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Lars speaking at the Musée du quai Branly international conference on Great Plains Indian Art, Paris, France, June 2014.


From Africa to Papua New Guinea, scarification is a permanent cultural statement of worldviews where humans, nature, and the supernatural are united. This painful form of body modification represents the reenactment of ancient myths, ancestral traditions, and the actions of deities and cultural heroes who sacrificed their own skins to make them more lasting and sacred.

Dr. Krutak discusses how various cultural beliefs have inspired the creation of this enduring and symbolic tradition. Stunning photographs and historical videos will emphasize the deeply personal meanings that scars carry for the people who wear and make them.


A shaman is an intermediary or messenger between the human and spiritual worlds. Shamans, who can be male or female, are typically found in cultures whose religious beliefs are grounded in animism. Animism is the belief that all life “whether animal, vegetable, elemental or human” is endowed with a soul or spiritual life force.

Among many Indigenous cultures shamans doubled as tattoo artists who worked through supernatural channels to cure their patients from “soul loss” and other maladies including infertility. The healing power affected by tattooing shamans arose from patron deities and helper and ancestral spirits who communicated their curative powers through the tattooist.

Drawing on his research with shamans, healers, and tattooists in the Amazon, Borneo, Africa, amongst other places, Dr. Krutak will discuss how shamanic tattooing worked as a magical mediator between this world and the next.


Whilst it was not his intention to do so, Lars Krutak ultimately created the subdiscipline of tattoo anthropology. In this thought provoking lecture, Krutak recounts his first encounters with tattooed peoples and explains what tattoo anthropology is, how and where you go about doing it, and what it means from the perspective of cultural heritage and traditional knowledge preservation. The words of Krutak’s Indigenous informants (a la video) permeate this lecture so that listeners gain a first-hand account of what tattooing culture means for the people who created it.


For thousands of years, peoples around the world have marked their bodies with various types of tattoos. This painful form of body art was not just the latest fashion; it was a visual language that exposed an individual’s desires and fears as well as ancient cultural values and ancestral ties that were written on the body.

However, many other forms of tattooing also embodied therapeutic values, and the surfaces of the human body became the location where preventive spiritualistic medicine was practiced. Drawing on the paleopathological record of tattooed mummies and ethnographic research conducted in Alaska, Borneo, and Papua New Guinea, Dr. Krutak will explore the indelible legacy of curative corporeal marking to reveal the complex system of tools, techniques, and beliefs by which ancient and more recent cultures attempted to control their bodies, lives, and experiences.




Peoria Riverfront Museum (hosted by the Fine Arts Society of Peoria) – Peoria, IL (September 25, 2024)

Paul H. and Erika Bourguignon Lecture in Art and Anthropology at The Ohio State University – Columbus, OH (April 11, 2024)

Waukee Public Library – Waukee, IA (July 22, 2023)

Profs & Pints – Washington, DC (July 11, 2023)

New Mexico Tattoo Fiesta – Albuquerque, NM (July 7-8, 2023)

College Art Association Annual Conference – New York City (February 16, 2023)

Museum of Danish America – Elk Horn, IA (June 10, 2022)

Springfield Museums – Springfield, MA (December 5, 2021)

Amsterdam Tribal Art Fair – Amsterdam, Netherlands (May 1, 2021)

Profs & Pints – Washington, D.C. (May 2, 2020)

Mata Hoata Gallery – Saint Petersburg, Russia (March 6-7, 2020)

U.S. Department of the Interior – Washington, DC (December 4, 2019)

Kohala Institute – Kapa’au, HI (October 25-28, 2019)

Galerie Meyer – Paris, France (October 18-19, 2019)

Luther College – Decorah, IA (September 19, 2019)

East-West Center: University of Hawaii at Manoa – Honolulu, Hawai’i (April 15, 2019)

Kutztown University – Kutztown, PA (March 20, 2019)

Profs & Pints – Washington, D.C. (March 18, 2018)

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County – Los Angeles, CA (January 7, 2018)

Morphomata International Center for Advanced Studies, University of Cologne – Cologne, Germany (December 1, 2017)

10th Annual Florence Tattoo Convention – Florence, Italy (November 4-5)

3rd International Traditional Tattoo & Culture Festival – Palma, Mallorca, Spain (May 23-24, 2017)

Deva Museum of Dacian and Roman Civilization – Deva, Romania (May 20, 2017)

Eretz Israel Museum – Tel Aviv, Israel (2016)

Seneca Art and Culture Center at Ganondagan – Victor, NY (2016)

Texas Tech University – Lubbock, TX (2016)

Royal Ontario Museum – Toronto, Canada (2016)

Museum of International Folk Art – Santa Fe, NM (2016)

TEDx (2015) – Calgary, Canada

Musée du quai Branly (2015) – Paris, France

Calvert Marine Museum (2015) – Solomons Island, MD

American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings (2014) – Washington, D.C.

“Talk of Iowa” (on tattoo history) (2014) – Iowa Public Radio

Eastfield College (2014) – Dallas, TX

Florence Tattoo Convention (2014) – Florence, Italy

Skin & Bone Gallery (2014) – Copenhagen, Denmark

Konstfack College of Art and Design (2014) – Stockholm, Sweden

Middle Tennessee State University (2014) – Murfreesboro, TN

Hirshhorn Museum ARTLAB+ (2014) – Washington, D.C.

Musée du quai Branly (2014) – Paris, France

Toronto Tattoo Convention (2014) – Toronto, Canada

Q?rius (2014) – National Museum of Natural History Education Center, Smithsonian Institution

DWissen (2013) – German Public Radio

Ben Gurion University (2013) – Be’er Sheva, Israel

Native America Calling (2013) – Radio Program, USA

Indian Institute of Technology (2013) – Guwahati, India

Free University of Berlin (2013) – Berlin, Germany

The Smithsonian Associates II (2013) – Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

The Iroquois Museum (2013) – Howe’s Cave, NY

WNYC 93.9 FM, The Leonard Lopate Show (2012) – New York City, NY

Louisiana State University Union Gallery (2012) – Baton Rouge, LA

ThirstDC (2012) – Washington, D.C.

Florence Tattoo Convention (2012) – Florence, Italy

Rites of Passage Festival (2012) – Melbourne, Australia

The Smithsonian Associates I (2011) – Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

Amsterdam Tattoo Museum (2011) – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Pontifical Urbaniana University (2011) – Vatican City

Sacred Gallery (2011) – New York City, NY

International Brussels Tattoo Convention (2011) – Brussels, Belgium

7th International Mummy Congress (2011) – University of San Diego, CA.

Dumbarton Oaks Museum (2011) – Washington, D.C.

Gathering of the Tribes Festival (2011) – Kuching, Malaysia