My new paper on therapeutic tattooing in the Arctic has just been published in the International Journal of Paleopathology. 

Here’s the abstract and Intro paragraph:


This essay describes the potential for using ethnographic evidence and mummified tattooed skin to reflect on past therapeutic tattoo practice in the Arctic. It also considers the ways in which circumpolar concepts of disease emerged in relation to the agency of nonhuman entities. I argue that specific forms of curative tattooing offer interpretive models for the paleopathological and bioarchaeological study of care through an ontological framework of analysis.



Across the Arctic, various Indigenous medical procedures were performed to cure the human body of physical ailments, including bloodletting, piercing, scarification, “poking,” acupuncture, among other traditional medicinal practices (Dixon and Kirchner, 1982Fortuine, 19851989Marsh and Laughlin, 1956Murdoch, 1892:422–423Weyer, 1932:324). Although each of these therapeutic techniques has not been adequately analyzed, therapeutic tattooing, or the insertion of permanent coloring agents into the dermis to induce healing, is arguably the least understood form of health care praxis recorded in the bioarchaeological and paleopathological record. Material evidence of this form of tattooing in soft tissue remains is extremely rare. Notwithstanding, human societies past and present have engaged in these indelible traditions for thousands of years (Deter-Wolf et al., 2016Krutak, 2013Samadelli et al., 2015), but contextualized cultural analysis of specific instances of this ancient medicinal technology are rarely elaborated upon in the literature.