A new study indicates that the tattoos found on Ötzi the Iceman’s body may have actually been an early form of acupuncture treatment.

According to a new study, health care was surprisingly good during Ötzi the Iceman’s lifetime 5,300 years ago. Scientists learned this after examining the Iceman’s tattoos and the many different medicines and herbs that were found beside Ötzi’s body when he died thousands of years ago in the Alps near the Austrian/Italian border.

Archaeologists originally traced all of Ötzi the Iceman’s 61 tattoos back in 2015 and have recently come to the conclusion that these may not have been simply decorative markings but were most likely an early form of acupuncture treatments. As the charcoal drawings were found along Ötzi’s lower back, wrists, knees, and ankles, scientists note that these would all have been placed upon “hard-working areas of the human body.” As acupuncture is thought to have originated in Asia 2,000 years after Ötzi the Iceman lived, this shows that health care may have been much more advanced than previously thought 5,300 years ago, as Smithsonian reports.

For instance, after analyzing multispectral imaging that was conducted on Ötzi the Iceman, it was discovered that new tattoos identified on his chest would have been in much the same region that acupuncture points would be in today that are used to treat intestinal disorders. The new study notes that the tattoos found on Ötzi’s body would suggest that there was “considerable effort and, irrespective of the efficacy of the treatment, provided care for the Iceman.”

The new study has concluded that if the Copper Age society in which Ötzi the Iceman lived in actually did invent acupuncture and practice it, they must have developed a fairly decent system based on trial and error which showed just how good health care must have been during this period of time.

Scientists also note that plants that were found in Ötzi’s possession show that the society in which he lived was one that fairly advanced. For example, Birch polypore fungus was discovered with the Iceman’s tools and it has been suggested that this may have been used as either an early antibiotic or a medicine that would have staved off serious inflammation. Meanwhile, with bracken fern also found inside Ötzi’s stomach, this may have been an early type of medicine used to rid the body of tapeworms.

It has been noted in the new study that the Iceman’s body paints a “picture of an orderly, skilled and strategic form of operation” that “puts provision of care into perspective.”

The new study which suggests that Ötzi the Iceman lived in a society which had greatly advanced health care has been published in the International Journal of Paleopathology.

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