Everyone say, "Pazyryk"

By Carl Zimmer | May 12, 2008 10:28 am


Kate writes:

“I thought I’d send you a photo of my tattoo. I guess it fits into the ‘anthropology’ category although I’m actually a vet (I’ve seen exactly one deer in a professional capacity since I graduated). It’s a copy of a tattoo found on the Pazyryk mummy, a 2,400 year old Scythian, possibly a shaman. I’ve heard that it’s the oldest known tattoo found on a woman, but I’m not sure whether that’s correct. It was done to celebrate the end of a 1, 200 mile walk from John O Groats to Land’s End back in 2002. I’ve heard of other people with it, but haven’t seen any, so I’d be interested to find out if any of your other readers have the same one. Not as cool as some, but I like it!”

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science Tattoo Emporium

Comments (26)

  1. vicky stonebridge

    Yes ! I’ve got one ! or at least based on the same design, on my left arm. I’ve a few other pazyryk style tatts, its a personal obbsession. i met a lady with the deer on her back at Bristol Comic Expo this may. I’m an artist.


  2. Tegan

    Hey! I have that tattoo! But mine is shaded with a little colour- I’ve started a collection of tattoo’s like this! I’ve got a phoenix in the same sort of style, though of course its not from the old russian style.

  3. Debbie

    I’m a reired IBM Senior Project Manager and I had this tattoo put on my upper right back over 6 years ago. It’s about 5 inches square. My tatto guy customed blended the blue ink color so it would be a bright blue like the original. This tattoo is one of many I have but is my favorite.

  4. River

    Yep, I’ve got in on my upper right arm. I wrote my Master’s thesis on this culture so I got this plus the elk from her wrist done in homage. Eventually there’ll be a whole sleeve!

  5. Paterek

    I do not have the Pazyryk tattoo, but I have many others NOT traditional.I have done a lot of research and reading on the Pazyryks (Rudenko, Et:al,Et:al.) The z is pronounced as a T , and the z’s are pronounced as E’s. So you cansee why I am so intrigued about my surname. Having Tattoed Professionally in Vermont at one time it is nice to see art on people instead of traditional work.

  6. Roxanne

    I have the same tattoo! on my lower spine, above my hips…got it when I was 20 because I loved the tat when I saw it in a National Geographic Magazine when I was 17.

    I also have a wolf skull on my right ankle, and a running wolf onmy left ankle, because I am a veterinary technician (in school now!) and am specializing in canine behavior.



  7. Charity

    I just got this tattoo last night. I saw it in a National Geographic years ago and it always stuck with me. I did some research on it and was even more intrigued. It is my first tattoo and I had it put on my lower back. I was a history major and it was the only tattoo that “spoke” to me.

  8. sandi

    I found the picture of this in the National Geographic issue about the find,and did it in Embroidery, on the back of a jacket.I mirrored the image so there are 2 facing each other.I think of embroidery as removable Tattoos.And I already have one on my back.
    It feels very protective,and I guess it is like being in a world wide clan.

  9. Jackie

    I have it, too! Found it in National Geographic, cut it out, and held onto it until I was old enough to get it tattooed. It’s such a gorgeous design.

  10. Dark Wolf

    I have it too. Saw it on the wall where I go for my ink. Fascinated by the shape, twist and balance.
    After I reasearched its origin I put it on my right shoulder about 5 inches across. It took 2hours and 45 minutes. It gets a lot of comments. It was my 9th and almost a year ago.

  11. kettunainen

    Can anyone tell me which National Geographic it was in? Or at least which year? This NEEDS to be on my left shoulder. It’s speaking to me *profoundly* for a multitude of reasons.

  12. guinevere

    It was in the October 1994 issue of Nat Geo. I’ve loved this tattoo for years, glad others feel the same way.

  13. Beth N.

    I also have this tattoo in the middle of my back, done in dark brown. I’m an art conservator, and like all the objects I work on, I loved the story behind it. My older sister also has it, and my younger sister will be getting one soon!

  14. kettunainen

    thanks guinevere! I have my very own issue now, and someday, I’ll have a new tattoo!

  15. Belinda

    I have this tattoo as well the the smaller crescent shaped animal! it’s crazy to find so many people who know what it is and share the appreciation!

  16. I have this mythical creature tattooed on the back of my right hand. it wraps around and the antlers twist up onto my knuckles. This way I can see it all the time (and I have run out of room anywhere else). I feel extremely connected to the Pazyryk people, enough so, that I am now known as Pazyryk to friends and in the art community. I hope that someday soon the Russian goverment will return the Ice Maiden Shamaness to her sacred burial grounds. I take this connection very seriously and am so glad others have found this tattoo to be so inspirational. Could it be that all of us who got this tattoo are reincarnated members of an ancient Pazyryk tribe? And upon seeing this most wonderfully twisted reindeer, we automatically felt like we needed to “fly the Pazyryk colors”?

  17. pkLinfoot

    I have this same tat. Got it at Sturgis years ago…….Saw the image and it stayed with me, just like it did with many of you……….I feel strangely drawn to this amazingly beautiful land…and the recreation of what this woman looked like-WOW! I feel a great connection….can’t explain…but I am guessing some of you may know the feeling………..

  18. Ben Leydon

    wow..so many people with the same tattoo as me! I too saw it on a documentary, thought about it for several years, by accident found a picture in National Geographic, tore out the pic and kept it for another 5 years, still loved the design and got it done.

  19. Noël

    I am amazed at how many people have been inspired enough by this image to get it permanently tattooed on their bodies. I am one of those people, though, and just had this tattooed onto my left arm this past Monday. I did a lot of research into the original placement/size/angle of the tattoo on the Ice Maiden’s body, and did my best to get it as accurate as possible. I ended up with a fairly large piece, but one that looks incredibly striking. This is my first tattoo, and was the only one that “spoke” to me enough, to the point where I almost felt it on my body before I had it tattooed into my skin. Crazy! I’m so glad to be a part of a small and unique “tribe” of people who share this same tattoo!

    A picture of my new tattoo: http://img97.imageshack.us/img97/1628/42951969.jpg

  20. Siobhan

    Wow, can’t believe that so many have this tattoo and have also found eachother! I held this pic for years before having it done on my left arm in blue on Saturday by a dear friend in my woodlands which was very special for both of us. I am a pagan who has a keen interest in all shamanic practices, even more so after coming close to death a few times in the past few years.
    Blessings to all inked with this magical image :)

  21. I have this tattoo as well, though I modified it a bit. The more I looked at Pazyryk tattoos, the more I noticed that the designs of predator species depicted the animals normally, while the prey animals had that broken-backed twist. I love that element of the design, but I was also designing a matching tattoo of my horse, and didn’t really want to show her as a dead animal. 😀 So I flipped the hind end back around on mine. It ended up working out great with the placement I used, and I also had mine inked in dark red so that hopefully as they fade they’ll take on a bit of a henna look.

  22. Kim

    Me too! Saw the article in NG when I was 17. Held onto the pic for 3 years before getting it done. Came across this site loking for some more Pazryrk tattoos!!!

  23. Dave

    I have ‘the whole set’: all of the tattoos found on the first tattooed mummy found in the Altai by Rudenko (sometimes referred to as ‘the frozen Scythian’). I went to St. Petersburg this past spring with a TV production company to see the mummy, meet anthropologist Dr. Svetlana Pankova… and learn about the other tattooed Pazyryk mummies (also, to get another tattoo, in Russia!). Watch for Museum Secrets Season 2 on the History Channel in 2012: the episode on The Hermitage (shameless plug…)



  24. Kae Starr

    This was my first tattoo,done at 17 years of age(now 35) and I have never redone it.The artist died the same year on his wedding day.He was killed while riding in the back seat of his car with his wife while his best friend and best man drove them to their hotelsuite. I dont want to mess with it but I also want it completed.Years later I’m still torn about what to do.

  25. Christine

    I had this tattoo done 15 years ago when I first saw it in the National Geographic. I am a feltmaker and a horsewoman, and also of Hungarian ancestry. The image yelled out to me profoundly – it was my first and only tattoo and I love the image deeply. I continue to research the Scythians and other felt making nomads, and the images intrinsically affect my work..

  26. Dina Macyszyn

    Hey! I have that tattoo! Saw the image and it stayed with me, just like it did with many of you. It was the only tattoo that “spoke” to me and am so glad others have found this tattoo to be so inspirational.


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The Loom

A blog about life, past and future. Written by DISCOVER contributing editor and columnist Carl Zimmer.

About Carl Zimmer

Carl Zimmer writes about science regularly for The New York Times and magazines such as DISCOVER, which also hosts his blog, The LoomHe is the author of 12 books, the most recent of which is Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed.


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