Ancient Egyptians Had Tattoos

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Scientists from the University of Missouri – St. Louis used infrared scanners to look at the tattoos of ancient Egyptian mummies and found many interesting discoveries.

While investigating a site at Deir el-Medina, they examined the skin of each of the mummies found at the site. Six of the mummies had elaborate tattoos, something not understood until now.

Egyptian Tattoos on a Mummy – Image Credit Anne Austin

The mummies were nearly all artisans and craft workers from the site, which dates back to around 3,000 years ago.

Previously, archaeologists had found a few tattoos on Egyptian mummies, six in total. However, they did not have adequate technology for finding them easily until now.

Seven of the Deir el-Medina mummies have yielded tattoos so far. Previously, researchers thought that the tattoos on females were for “fertility”. However, the Deir el-Medina mummies paint a different picture.

Most of the tattoos found at the site seem to highlight the roles of women as healers and priestesses. One woman had tattoos of hieroglyphs on the back of her neck and another had a human eye tattooed on her neck as well as two seated baboons.

One female mummy had 30 tattoos. Based on their findings, scientists believe the tattoos highlighted the way in which roles of females in Ancient Egypt were surprisingly progressive.

Ötzi the Iceman was found in the Italian Alps, frozen in a glacier.

Tattoos in the prehistoric world, while not common, have been found elsewhere as well.

The oldest tattoo ever found was on the Ötzi the Iceman, a 5,000 year old body found in the ice of the Italian Alps. He was found to have three tattoos on his lower legs.

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