Inked Mummies, Linking Tattoo Artists With Their Ancestors

As scientists find more tattoos on preserved remains from Indigenous cultures, artists living today are drawing from them to revive cultural traditions.

Although people from numerous cultures have reclaimed their tattooing heritage in the past two decades, there are many others who have had theirs obscured entirely by colonization and assimilation. As scientists pay more attention to tattooing, though, their work could bring more lost traditions to light.

For Mr. Kaszas and others, tattooing isn’t just a way to revive an Indigenous language nearly silenced by colonialism. It also has the power to heal wounds of the past and strengthen Indigenous communities for the future.

“The work our tattoos are doing to heal us is a different kind of work than our ancestors used them for,” Mr. Kaszas said. “That’s a form of medicine, for people to look down at their arm and understand they’re connected to a family, a community, the earth.”

“Our tattoos are very selfless,” she said. They aren’t just for the woman receiving them, but for her grandmothers, her children and her entire community as well.