The earliest known tattoos are from 5,000 years ago and were found on the body of the Iceman, from the Italian-Austrian border. His tattoos were located on key acupuncture spots, so it is speculated that the tattoos may have been for pain relief. However there are records of tattoos from civilizations all over the world, so it is likely that many cultures found independent methods of creating tattoos.
Other than the Iceman, one of the earliest records of tattoos were found in carvings and on mummies of Egyptian women from 4,000 to 3,500 B.C. Their tattoos were located on the thighs and abdomen, and anthropologists theorize that the tattoos had to do with protection during pregnancy and birth.
There are many other ancient cultures that exhibit evidence of tattoos. The Nubians and Libyans were tribes that lived close to the Egyptians and also showed evidence of tattoos. There is also evidence that the Scythian Pazyryk people of Mongolia also used tattoos, as seen on mummies and in Greek writings. The Romans also have accounts of the ancient Britons as having tattoos. There are also some Pre-Columbian cultures in Peru and Chile that have tattoos that much resemble their art. On the other side of the world, some mummies in China dating back to 1200 B.C. had tattoos, and the Maori are famous for their facial tattoos. Finally there is evidence that North American native groups including the Cree and the Inuit had tattoos.