Us humans have been modifying our bodies for thousands of years.
The record for the oldest tattoos belongs to Otzi, a mummified man who died around 5,300 years ago. He had 61 tattoos on his body, created by slicing open the skin and rubbing in charcoal dust.
People get body mods for many reasons; including aesthetics, religious beliefs, self-expression and signifying social status, just to name a few.
Here are some of the most extreme and amazing body modifications in the world, as well as the stories behind them.
Most tattooed man
Lucky Diamond Rich can juggle chainsaws, swallow swords and ride a unicycle, but they aren’t even the most interesting things about him.
Lucky, who was born in New Zealand but has Aboriginal Australian heritage from the Quandamooka and Mununjali Tribal Clans, has more tattoos than anyone else in the world.
He has 100% tattoo coverage after spending over 1,000 hours having his body inked by hundreds of artists.
"I would get tattooed by some amazing artists all over the world. I just basically said to them, 'Here’s this section of my body; go for it.'"
Lucky got his first tattoo at age 16 whilst travelling with a circus and received his second tattoo at 18. By age 28 his body was fully covered in colourful designs, but he didn’t want to stop there.
He decided to completely cover his skin in black ink, including his eyelids, the thin 'webs' of skin between his toes, and even his gums.
"Everyone's different in how they react. It's like the weather; you can’t predict it, you can't control it. […] But here I am; travelling the world, loving my life. Hopefully people pick up on that."
Most body modifications (male)
Rolf Buchholz (Germany) proudly holds this title with 516 body modifications, as verified on 16 December 2012.
Comprising a large part of this total are Rolf’s 481 piercings, of which 278 are on his genitals.
Among Rolf’s 35 implants are two subdermal 'horns' and five magnetic implants in each fingertip on his right hand.
Whilst his tongue splitting was counted towards the record total, his genital splitting was not.
"My most painful body modification was my palm tattoo. It really hurts. I have no high pain tolerance." – Rolf
Rolf has approximately 90% tattoo coverage, although tattoos aren’t classed as body modifications for this record.
Most tattooed senior citizens
Charlotte Guttenberg (USA) is the most tattooed senior citizen (female) and her partner Chuck Helmke (USA) is the most tattooed male senior citizen (male).
Charlotte has 98.75% of her body tattooed and is in fact the most tattooed woman ever. Chuck has 97.5% tattoo coverage and also holds the record for the most skulls tattooed on the body.
Charlotte and Chuck have spent nearly 2,000 hours combined in tattoo chairs!
Despite being adorned from head to toe in beautiful art, the couple don’t notice the tattoos when they look at each other.
"It’s just part of us. But it’s a small part of our life and some people probably don’t understand that. It doesn’t define who we are at all." - Charlotte
Their advice for others: "Be yourself. Do not be afraid to put yourself out there, whatever it may be. What is the worst that can happen?"
Most body modifications (female)
The female holder of this record is Maria José Cristerna (Mexico), aka 'The Vampire Woman', or as she prefers, 'The Jaguar Woman'.
Maria has a total of 49 body modifications, including a range of transdermal implants on her forehead, chest and arms, as well as multiple piercings in her eyebrows, lips, nose, tongue, ear lobes, belly button and nipples.
Implanted without the use of anaesthetics, Maria sees her body mods as symbols of courage and strength after suffering domestic violence during her first marriage.
Maria worked as a lawyer and now owns a tattoo studio and clothing boutique.
Most body modifications (married couple)
Married body-modders Victor Hugo Peralta (Uruguay) and his wife Gabriela Peralta (Argentina) have 84 body modifications, as verified on 7 July 2014.
These consist of 50 piercings, eight microdermals, 14 body implants, five dental implants, four ear expanders, two ear bolts and one forked tongue.
"Nowadays, we are what’s known as the cherubs of hell." - Victor
The couple have been together for 23 years and married for 13. Victor started his body modification journey in 2009 and Gabriela quickly followed suit after liking the new look.
In addition to their shared passion for body art, they also love their home, their many animals, and of course, each other.
"Art can be something than can unite you, but there is nothing like love. If there isn’t love, you always lose."
Most flesh tunnels (face)
James Goss (UK) achieved this record with 14 facial flesh tunnels, which measure between 3mm and 18mm in diameter.
James was inspired to break this record after seeing the previous record holder Joel Miggler (Germany), who had 11 flesh tunnels.
James realised that he already had more facial piercings than that - he just needed to stretch them.
"It’s your body, so as long as you’re doing it safely, what you do with it is your decision and only your feelings and opinions should matter." – James Goss
James believes that his style makes him more himself than if he had no modifications at all.
"I don’t really feel any different, I feel more like myself the further I progress into my modification journey, and that is my motivation at the end of the day."
Most piercings in a lifetime
Elaine Davidson (Brazil/UK) had her first skin piercing in 1997. She went on to receive more piercings than anyone else in recorded history.
Elaine has been pierced a total of 4,225 times, as of 8 June 2006. Nearly every part of her body is pierced, including her forehead, chin, breasts, hands and pubic area (internal and external).
She often replaces and adds to her face jewellery, and she likes to further accessorize with bright make-up and hair feathers.
"People often just want to look at me or touch me – some even want to kiss me," - Elaine Davidson
Through meeting our record holders, you'll realise that they're no different to anyone else, body mods aside.
Or maybe they are. Their fearless self-expression sets them apart from the crowd and is truly inspiring.
Thankfully, we live in a time where they can be celebrated, as opposed to being derided as outcasts.
"It’s an honour and a privilege. To have young kids come up and want to get a photo because they recognise me.” - Lucky Diamond Rich