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Poland’s preserved prison tattoos, all in the name of research

Poland’s Jagiellonian University has some pretty interesting research collections. And one of them includes a jaw-dropping collection of prison tattoos preserved in formaldehyde. It’s not there so much for shock value as it’s there for a look into the past. ‘Tattoos back then were markedly different than their modern counterparts,’ where they used a method called ‘stick-and-poke’. Instead of needles, prisoners used to be ‘equipped’ with tools such as razor blades, broken glass, paper clips, or even wires. And ‘ink was substituted for pencil refills, charcoal, watercolor paints, or crayons mixed with water, fat or urine’.

A prison tattoo found in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Poland
A prison tattoo found in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Poland
A prison tattoo found in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Poland
A prison tattoo found in the Department of Forensic Medicine at Jagiellonian University in Poland

About the author

Rachel Oakley is an Aussie writer based in NYC with an obsession for the creepy, cool and quirky side of life. Some of her main passions include philosophy, art, travel, and sarcasm.

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