Twenty years ago, Ötzi the iceman's mummified body was discovered in the Italian Alps, close to the Austrian border. His skin was tattooed with likely acupuncture points.
L Dorfer et al in A medical report from the stone age? suggest that the acupuncture points correspond with treatment for arthritis and the urinary, digestive and hepatic systems. Radiology revealed that Ötzi was suffering from moderate arthrosis in the hips, knees, ankles and lower back. The study concludes that the treatment is suggestive of arthrosis and also digestive tract pain caused by a whipworm infestation in the gut.
Last week the results of a new autopsy were published in the National Geographic. The bacteria that cause Lyme disease were discovered in the iceman. Is it possible that the soot-tattoo acupuncture markings could be evidence of an ancient treatment for Lyme disease?
Of the different Lyme disease bacteria - or borrelia - variants, Ötzi was infected with burgdorferii, more generally found in North America nowadays. Lyme arthritis is a typical feature of infection with burgdorferii. By contrast, the European species afzelii and garinii are more likely to cause neurological and connective tissue problems.
The acupuncture treatment for Lyme disease includes clearing and balancing the urinary and hepatic systems, for detoxification purposes, as well as treating specific symptoms such as arthritis. Some illustrated points are also suggestive of immune system support, the other major area targeted in acupuncture therapy of Lyme disease or borreliosis.
The act of tattooing these points would enable anyone to apply acupuncture or acupressure to the iceman, giving him relief without the need for a specialised practitioner.