Tattoos Discovered on Mummies Change What We Previously Knew About Body Art

March 2, 2018 8:26 am Last Updated: March 2, 2018 8:26 am

Hi-tech scans of the bodies of two mummies in a British museum have revealed something that previously escaped the attention of researchers previously—the presence of tattoos.

The discovery of tattoos on the bodies of two 5,000-year-old Egyptian mummies shows that the practice of decorative body inking is much older than previously thought.

“It’s the first time in human history that people are mirroring art, which is usually on pottery, on rock art, on carved palettes, stone palettes or ivory, onto their own bodies,” said Dr. Daniel Antoine, Curator of Physical Anthropology at the British Museum.

The mummies come from a period before Egypt was unified under one pharaoh, making them the oldest evidence of artistic tattooing in Africa.

Otzi, the Iceman from Europe’s Alps, also around 5,000 years old, is thought to have the world’s oldest tattoos. But his inkings are geometric, not figurative.

The pair of mummies has been at the British Museum in London for 100 years but the tattoos only came to light after researchers used infrared technology to see them.

Watch the video to see the details of the discovery, which gives us deeper insights into who these people were and the culture of the time.