Could acupuncture have existed in ancient Europe?
Mapping and analysis of the tattoos on Europe’s most well-known mummy, “Otzi” the Iceman, suggests that a primitive version of the therapy may have been known over 5,200 years ago. While they’re a lot harder to see now, medical imaging found a total of 61 tattoos that can be divided into 19 groups.
Most of the Iceman’s tattoos are located close to his spine and joints. Previous imaging showed that he had lower back pain and degeneration of his knee, wrist and ankle joints, so they may have had a therapeutic purpose.
Five tattoo groups are close to, or directly over, the Urinary Bladder (UB) channel, a meridian line with many acupuncture points used in TCM.
Some tattoos on his UB channel are over points still used today in lower back issues. Additionally, a newly identified tattoo on his chest could be related to his other health problems – atherosclerosis, whipworm and gallstones – which often cause chest pain.
These findings raise a few questions. If these tattoos reveal an early understanding of acupuncture points, did this knowledge evolve independently in Asia and Europe? Or was long-distance exchange of ideas more comprehensive than we thought?
Of course, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as a whole has advanced a lot in the last 5,300 years. It is, however, fascinating to learn about its origins and place in world history.