Infrared light reveals tattoos on Egyptian mummies

Mysteries
Egyptian mummy tattoos

An image of a tattoo on an Egyptian mummy. (Anne Austin / University of Missouri-St. Louis)

MYSTERY WIRE — An Egyptian mummy with more than 30 tattoos has captured the attention of researchers who want to learn more about the significance of the markings.

Infrared photography has recently produced more discoveries of ancient tattoos. Archaeologists studying mummies from the Deir Al Medina site in Luxor have found 12 mummies with tattoos. Six had extensive tattoos.

The findings, reported by University of Missouri-St. Louis archaeologist Anne Austin, may suggest that tattoos signified roles in society. Austin believes that there may be spiritual significance in the markings of six mummies — all women. It’s possible that they were healers or priestesses.

Read more on the discovery in Inked Magazine’s “Scientists discover 3,000-year-old-tattoos on Egyptian mummies.”

Previously, archaeologists thought that Egyptian women wore tattoos as a sign of fertility. The mummy with 30-plus tattoos includes cross-shaped patterns on her arms, a design not seen in any of the other 12 Egyptian mummies. Another one of the mummies had a tattoo of a human eye (a sign of protection) on the back of her neck, as well as a pair of baboons on the sides of her neck.

The mummies are at least 3,000 years old. Sciencenews.org reports that the oldest known tattoos appeared on “Otzi the Iceman,” who died roughly 5,250 years ago.

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