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Inked: Getting Tattooed in Iowa

Do you have a tattoo? Why did you get it, and what does it mean to you? 

According to tattooist Michelle Balhan, most of the tattoos she does are a way to commemorate something meaningful, or to remember someone who has passed away.

Tattoos have always been that way, sort of… Lars Krutak, who studies tattooing in cultures across the globe says there’s evidence of tattooing as a way to do everything from mark social status to alleviate arthritic pain.

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“The earliest firm evidence we have of tattooing is 6-7,000 years old. The next oldest evidence seems to be therapeutic. There were over 60 tattoos found on the body of a Neolithic ice man’s body, and they lined up with traditional acupuncture lines,” Krutak explains. 

Inked: Getting Tattooed in Iowa
Producer Lindsey Moon has been documenting the process of getting her newest tattoo. Here’s what it was like.

During this hour on Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe talks with Krutak about tattooing across history.  Surveys show that around 10% percent of Americans today have tattoos, and that early in Iowa, tattoos were given to the high nobility in the Sioux and the Ioway tribes as  way to connect living people with their ancestors.

Balhan, who is based in Iowa City and owns Velvet Lotus Tattoo also joins the conversation. She says in her 19 years as an artist, she’s seen tattoo culture evolve from tribal bands and small, Chinese characters to large and sometimes incredibly intricate works of art. 

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Digital Producer
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa