Scythian Designs

Tattoos on Scythian Chieftan from Burial Mound No. 2 at Pazyryk




The Pazyryk were closely related to the Scythian people.

In 2003 after three other tattooed Ice mummies were discovered, the Pazyryk Chieftan, The Ice maiden and the Ice Horseman, the Hermitage Musseum decided to examine the four Ice Mummies which had been housed there since the 1940's.  Three of the four mummies examined at the Hermitage Musseum come from the Altai, more specifically from the Pazyryk barrows, which date from the 5th-3rd centuries B.C. The Pazyryk mummies skin is very dark due to oxygen exposure and drawings were not visible on them.  Infrared  photographs revealed three of the Hermitage Ice Mummies have tattoos.

 Rare   tattooing on Chieftan frozen Corpse found Barrow 2 Pazyryk, Altai Mountains, Siberia.  5th Century. 

The body of the chief from Burial Mound No. 2 at Pazyryk.

His body was almost completely covered with tattoos, the main motifs being fabulous zoomorphic animals - for these people were hunters.

The Scythian Chieftain is a wonderfully-preserved individual discovered in a tomb south of Kiev, in 1947. Like the Pazyryk finds, the body had remained relatively intact through a combination of deliberate embalming and the freezing temperatures of the region. The Scythians were culturally related to the Pazyryk, a connection seen most obviously in the decorative animal motifs which both tribes have in common. The chieftain was extensively tattooed, with zoomorphic designs covering his shoulders, arms, his lower right leg, and parts of his chest and back.

He also had two rows of dots tattooed down his spine, an unusually simple motif compared to his other tattoos. It is possible that, as with Ötzi (The Iceman), these could have been applied for therapeutic purposes.

A felt cutout depicting a ram was found in the tomb along with many other grave goods. This seemingly insignificant item was later shown to be identical to a ram on the chieftain's right arm. It is believed that the cutout would have been used as a stencil.  It is beleived the felt would be soaked in dye and placed on the skin, leaving a stain in the exact shape of the cutout.


Tattooed Body of a Tribal Chief
Altai, Pazyryk Burial Mound 2
5th century BC
Human skin

The body of a chief, found in Pazyryk Burial Mound No. 2, was tattooed almost all over, but unfortunately it is only poorly preserved. The tattoo can be easily examined on the right side of the body. The right arm from the wrist to the shoulder bears representations of six fabulous animals, their hindquarters twisted around, and with branchy horns. The right leg from the kneecap to the ankle is covered with the representation of a fish. On the chest is a tiger with a spiralling tail. On the left arm are two stags and a leaping moufflon sheep with its hind legs bent under.

The tattoos were discovered in 2003-2004 during an examination of ancient mummies  kept in the State Hermitage's Department of Archeology of Eastern Europe and Siberia.

The skin is estimated to be 2,500 years old.  Classical Scythian-Period period (3th–5th centuries BC)

Pazyryk barrows, which date from the 5th-3rd centuries B.C. and were excavated by Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko during 1947-1948.

The Pazyryk tombs discovered by Rudenko were in an almost perfect state of preservation. Unique artifacts found during excavation of the burial mounds (kurgans) of Pazyryk in the Eastern part of the High Altai, at a height of 1,600 metres above sea level include skeletons and intact bodies of horses and embalmed humans, together with a wealth of artifacts including saddles, riding gear, a chariot, rugs, clothing, jewelry, musical instruments, amulets, tools, and, interestingly, an "apparatus for inhaling hemp smoke". Also found in the tombs were fabrics from Persia and China, which the Pazyryks must have obtained on journeys covering thousands of miles.


Acylic on canvas

       Corpse of Man                                  

 About 60 years of age, very powerfully built, broad cheekbones. On theright parietal bone were two oval shaped holes caused by a pick like instrument that probablycaused his death, probably in warfare. He was then scalped. An incision had been made fromone ear to the other and the scalp pulled off. A false scalp was laid over the skull and sewn backon with horsehair, probably by the man’s relatives after the body was recovered. The mummification was similar to that of the woman, trepanned skull, eviscerated. Small incisions were made on thighs but these were only cuts. A false beard had been tied on to the man’s shaven chin. Tattooed designs had been made on his chest, back, arms and legs illustrating animals in elaborate design patterns [Scythian contorted animal style].


 Pazyryk Mummified man's head Burial Mound No.2

 Photography Professor Daniel C. Waugh Silk Road Seattle

Tattoo designs from Mummified Man Burial Mound No. 2


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