Oldest Figurative Tattoos in the World Discovered on Super Rad 5,000-Year-Old Egyptian Mummy Couple

Experts have located the oldest tattoo art in the world on two probably very trendy ancient Egyptian mummies, among which is the oldest tattooed female ever discovered. The only tattooed figure that dates further than these two is the famous iceman Ötzi, who was about 300 years older but only had tattoos in geometric designs with lines and crosses.

They found an overlapping wild bull and Barbary sheep on the upper arm of the male, and S-shaped symbols on the woman’s upper arm. The two are currently housed in the British Museum; the mummies were actually discovered about 100 years ago, but their tattoos were overlooked until conservation work had researchers examining their skin with infrared imaging.

The mummies lived between 3351 and 3017 BC, which is before the time of hieroglyphs. This means it’s harder to determine the meaning behind their tattoo designs. It’s likely that the animals on the man, a bull and a sheep, may represent high status or power. That, or Red Bull has had people promoting their product since the dawn of time. The S designs on the woman were used in pottery decorations at the time.

This is really inspiring because these results may encourage other museums to start researching their existing collections, which could present new opportunities to learn more about the history of tattooing. This information alone pushes back the evidence of the practice in Africa back a millennium. Moreover, up until this point, archaeologists thought tattooing in ancient Egypt was only for women. Research like this only solidifies the timeless and sophisticated nature of body art in ways that are hard to argue.

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