Ancient Roman Tattoo Ink Recipe


Ancient tattoo ink recipes produce ink that is black or brown. (Giulia Bertelli)

Ancient tattoo ink recipes produce ink that is black or brown. (Giulia Bertelli)

This ancient tattoo ink recipe was devised by the Roman physician Aetius. It can be expected to produce a nice permanent iron-based ink, though the ingredients may cause irritation for some individuals. The reader is advised that this recipe is of historical significance, but safer and higher quality inks are available that you could use. Should the ink be used, it would be necessary to disinfect the ink, skin, and the needle used to ink the tattoo.

Tattoo Ink Ingredients

  • 1 pound Egyptian pine bark
  • 2 ounces corroded bronze, ground with vinegar
  • 2 ounces gall nut (insect egg deposits found in some trees)
  • 1 ounce vitriol (iron sulfate)

Prepare the Tattoo Ink

Sift the ingredients together. Soak the resulting powder in a solution of 1 part leek juice in 2 parts water. Rinse the area of skin being tattooed with leek juice. Prick the tattoo design into the skin such that blood is drawn. Rub the tattoo ink into the pricked skin.

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