Texas Tech University

Shamanic Skin: The Art of Magical Tattooing

A Talk by Dr. Lars Krutak, Tattoo Anthropologist (Dept. of Anthropology, Smithsonian Institution)

September 9, 2016 at 6:00 p.m.

Helen DeVitt Jones Auditorium of the Museum of Texas Tech University (inside the Helen DeVitt Jones Sculpture Court)

Since time immemorial, astonishingly diverse forms of tattooing have been produced by the Indigenous peoples of the world. Some employed tattoos for therapeutic or cosmetic purposes, to mark special life achievements, or to assert tribal identity. Others marked the body with more magical symbols that were understood to promote fertility, attract prey animals, or protect the body from malevolent spirits.

Lars Krutak's lecture explores these ancient traditions, revealing how tattooing exposed individual desires and fears as well as cultural and religious values that were written on the body in ink. He will also speak about tattoo revivals across Native North America. As a visual language of the skin, Krutak demonstrates that tattoos have much to say about being human.

Krutak's lecture will be followed by a book signing event in the Museum's Helen Devitt Jones Sculpture Court.

The talk is free and open to the public, and there is ample parking in the Museum lot. Please enter through the west doors that face Indiana Ave.

For more information, call Jane Bell at (806) 742-3667.


Dr. Lars Krutak is a tattoo anthropologist and author who has spent the last two decades traveling the world, learning about unique tattoos and the meanings behind them. Krutak began tattoo research in 1996 as a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He has a special interest in preserving Indigenous knowledge of tattooing, as it has begun to vanish around the globe. Through his publications and Discovery Channel series “Tattoo Hunter,” Krutak has worked to reveal the cultural diversity of tattoos and the biographies they represent.

Books available for purchase and signing after the talk

  • (2007) The Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women. London: Bennett & Bloom. 288pp.
  • (2014) Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity. 256pp.

Sponsors: The Office of International Affairs, The Museum of Texas Tech University, The CH Foundation