World’s earliest figural tattoos revealed by British Museum

The world’s earliest figural tattoos have been revealed on two natural mummies in the British Museum’s collection. Dating to between 3351 to 3017 BC (95.4% probability), figural tattoos of a wild bull and a Barbary sheep were identified on the upper arm of a male mummy and linear and S-shaped motifs have been identified on the upper arm and shoulder of a female mummy; the oldest tattoos ever found on a female body. The findings have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Thursday 1st March 2018. Entitled: Natural mummies from Predynastic Egypt reveal the world’s earliest figural tattoos.

<em>Infrared images of the mummy with details of the tattoos observed on her upper right arm (upper left)and shoulder (upper right)</em>
Infrared images of the mummy with details of the tattoos observed on her upper right arm (upper left)and shoulder (upper right)

Daniel Antoine, one of the lead authors of the research paper and the British Museum’s Curator of Physical Anthropology said

‘The use of the latest scientific methods, including CT scanning, radiocarbon dating and infrared imaging, has transformed our understanding of the Gebelein mummies. Only now are we gaining new insights into the lives of these remarkably preserved individuals. Incredibly, at over five thousand years of age, they push back the evidence for tattooing in Africa by a millennium’

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper' AofC - Issue 1 Autumn 2018