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19 Old-Ass Tattoos On Preserved Human Skin

The people aren't here anymore, but that doesn't mean they can't show off their tatts.

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The largest selection of preserved tattoos is from London's Wellcome Collection.

Wellcome Library, London

A tattoo on a piece of human skin showing a male bust and a flower stem.

They were preserved by slicing the tattoo off the body, scraping the connective tissue off the back, and then pinning the skin to dry.

Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images

A lady, possibly a girlfriend, surrounded by a garland of flowers.


As it dried, the skin would shrink away from the pins, creating a scooped effect around the edges.

Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

A Greek-style bust of an Emperor and some writing.

Back then, tattoos were considered to be the mark of a criminal, or at least criminal tendencies or general badness.

Medical men tried to interpret the most common images and symbols they found.

Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

France, 1850-1920. A table set with a knife, fork, wine, a bunch of roses and a hand grasping a dagger.


The museum records aren't great, and no one's entirely certain that the one guy they acquired the tattoos from was using his real name.

Or where, specifically, he got them from.

Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

A figure of a man with a large dagger surrounded by female angels with trumpets. France, 1830-1900.

Maybe they came from soldiers in the French Foreign Legion.

Science Museum, London. Wellcome Images.

France, 1850-1920. Naval symbols including an anchor and the image of a soldier with the word Legion above it.


H/T to Simon Davis who wrote about human pelts and The Art of Preserving Tattooed Skin After Death.

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