Lars Krutak with Pius, one of the last Makonde tattoo masters of Mozambique.
|Known for||Tattoo anthropology|
Lars Krutak (Lincoln, Nebraska April 14, 1971) is an American anthropologist, photographer, and writer known for his research about tattoo and its cultural background. He produced and hosted the 10-part documentary series Tattoo Hunter on the Discovery Channel, which traveled the indigenous world to showcase vanishing art forms of body modification. Between 1999-2002 and 2010-2014, Krutak worked as an Archaeologist and Repatriation Case Officer at the National Museum of the American Indian and National Museum of Natural History, facilitating the return of human remains, funerary objects, sacred and ceremonial objects. Today, he is a Research Associate at the Museum of International Folk Art.
Early life and career
Krutak was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Dr. Paul Krutak, a traveling geologist and university professor, who moved the family to Mexico City in 1979 and then to a series of states including Louisiana, Texas, and eventually Colorado where Lars grew up in the small mountain town atmosphere of Rye, Colorado. Krutak attended the University of Colorado at Boulder studying art history and anthropology and upon graduation (1993) he moved to San Francisco to work as an art gallery preparator for Paul Thiebaud, the son of American Pop artist Wayne Thiebaud. In 1996, Krutak attended graduate school at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks where his thesis One Stitch at a Time: Ivalu and Sivuqaq Tattoo focused on the ancient tattooing traditions of the St. Lawrence Island Yupik people.
Krutak briefly attended Cambridge University as a PhD student in 1998 but he returned stateside joining the National Museum of the American Indian (Smithsonian Institution) where he worked as a Repatriation Research Specialist (between 1999–2002) facilitating the return of sacred and ceremonial objects and human remains to indigenous peoples throughout North America and Mexico. Between 1998 and 2003 he also worked for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe as a Democratization Analyst and Applied Anthropologist in several countries of the former Yugoslavia monitoring electoral reforms.
Since 2002, Krutak served as an Anthropological Consultant for three National Geographic Channel productions and was a co-recipient of the 2003 American Book Award in Literature for Akuzilleput Igaqullghet, Our Words Put to Paper Sourcebook in St. Lawrence Island Yupik Heritage and History. His PhD studies at Arizona State University (2005–2009) focused on the socioeconomic impacts of tourism on the Rarámuri (Tarahumara) people of Mexico's Copper Canyon region.
Krutak appeared as a studio guest for the History Channel's Ancient Aliens: Mysterious Rituals episode (2011) where he spoke about shamanism. In 2018, Krutak was the resident tattoo historian for the Facebook Watch series "Ink Expedition" produced by INSIDER. Later that year he was a studio guest for Netflix's "Explained" series episode on tattoo which was produced by VOX.
Lars Krutak is married to Heidi Rauch, the founder of apparel company Belabumbum and has one daughter, Neena.
Published in 2007, Krutak's The Tattooing Arts of Tribal Women (ISBN 9781898948759) was the first book to focus on the tattooing artistry of indigenous women worldwide. It is based on one decade of field and archival research.
In August 2010, Krutak released a new coffee table book with Edition Reuss on the ancient art of Kalinga tattooing in the Philippines that is entitled Kalinga Tattoo: Ancient and Modern Expressions of the Tribal (ISBN 9783934020863). With an introduction provided by tattooed Kalinga elder Ms. Natividad Sugguiyao, this book is the first volume to focus on the indelible arts of these Cordilleran people and is based on field research conducted in 2007 and 2008.
In his continued effort to understand how tattoos and other forms of body modification "make" the people who wear them, Krutak has acquired many traditional tattoos including hand-tapped work from the Iban of Borneo, Kalinga of the Philippines, Mentawai of Indonesia; hand-poked art from Theravada Buddhist monks in Thailand; and hand-pricked designs from the Kayabi of the Brazilian Amazon. He also wears approximately one thousand razor and knife-cut scars across his body received from other groups like the Kaningara of Papua New Guinea, Bétamaribé of Benin, the Hamar of Ethiopia, and the Makonde of Mozambique.
Krutak's tattoo research is regularly published internationally in magazines TätowierMagazin (Germany), Total Tattoo (UK) and Skin & Ink Magazine (USA). In September 2012, Lars' new book Magical Tattoos and Scarification: Spiritual Skin. Wisdom. Healing. Shamanic Power. Protection (ISBN 9783943105117) was released by Edition Reuss. This photographic masterwork explores the secret world of magical tattooing and scarification across the tribal world. Based on one decade of Dr. Krutak's field research among animistic and shamanic societies of Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Melanesia, Magical Tattoos and Scarification journeys into highly sacred territory to reveal how people utilize ritual body modification to enhance their access to the supernatural.
In 2013, Krutak’s new work on Native American tattooing (i.e., Great Plains and Eastern Woodlands regions) was published by the University of Texas Press in the book Drawing With Great Needles: Ancient Tattoo Traditions of Eastern North America (Aaron Deter-Wolf and Carol Diaz-Granados, eds). Also that year, Krutak's research on ancient and contemporary practices of medicinal tattooing (including evidence on mummies) was published in the book "Tattoos and Body Modification in Antiquity" (Zurich Studies in Archaeology 9), edited by Philippe Della Casa and Constanze Witt.
Krutak's research on the history of Native North American tattoo, including contemporary revitalization movements, was published in the 2014 book "Tattoo Traditions of Native North America: Ancient and Contemporary Expressions of Identity" distributed by the University of Washington Press.
Krutak's new book, the co-edited volume "Ancient Ink: The Archaeology of Tattooing" with Aaron Deter-Wolf, assembles the research of international scholars and tattoo artists. Published by the University of Washington Press in November 2017, "Ancient Ink" is the first book to explore the archaeological history of tattooing through ancient tools, tattooed mummies, and tattooed objects of material culture.
- Discovery Channel: Tattoo Hunter
- Homepage of Lars Krutak
- American Book Award Archived August 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- Selling the Copper Canyon: Tourism and Rarámuri Socioeconomics in Northwest Mexico.
- World-renowned researcher to write first book on Kalinga Batok[permanent dead link]
- Colin Dale Profile by Lars Krutak
- Articles of Lars Krutak Archived November 12, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.