Aaron Deter-Wolf is a Prehistoric Archaeologist with the Tennessee Division of Archaeology and an adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Middle Tennessee State University. Aaron earned his MA from Tulane University in New Orleans, where he studied Maya archaeology, before transitioning to work as a professional archaeologist in the American Southeast. While Aaron’s day-to-day work focuses predominately on ancient Native American sites in Tennessee, for the past decade he has been a leading researcher into the archaeological footprint of tattooing. That work has included efforts using contextual analysis and microscopic use-wear signatures to identify tattoo tools in archaeological collections, and experiments recreating and testing ancient tattoo implements – including on himself.
In 2009, Aaron organized the first American academic symposium to examine ancient and early historic Native American tattooing, which culminated in the volume Drawing with Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of North America. Since that time he has participated in international symposia on ancient body modification, and authored book chapters on the identification of ancient tattoo tools and the origins of tattooing. In 2016, Aaron was the lead author on an article confirming that the European ice mummy “Ötzi” exhibits the world’s oldest preserved tattoos, and that same year appeared in the NOVA documentary “Iceman Reborn” discussing those marks. Aaron is co-editor of the new volume Ancient Ink: The Archaeology of Tattooing, the first-ever book dedicated to the global archaeological study of tattooing.