Technology found marks on bodies in the village of Deir el-Medina; researchers are still investigating the meaning of symbols.
By Ingrid Luisa
Dec 4, 2019, 5:53 pm – Posted on Dec 4, 2019, 5:52 pm
It is wrong to think that the habit of tattooing is a thing of modern times. In fact, tattoos are an ancient form of art that appears in various cultures throughout history. And now, with the use of infrared photography, which uses wavelengths invisible to the naked eye, tattoos on Egyptian mummies of at least 3,000 years are being discovered.
"It's very magical to work on an ancient tomb and suddenly see tattoos on a mummified person," said archaeologist Anne Austin of the University of Missouri-St. Louis She, along with her colleagues, examined the mummies in 2016 and 2019. The survey was conducted while Austin worked with the French Institute of Eastern Archeology in Cairo, and she presented the new findings now at the annual meeting of the American Schools of Oriental Research. .
In total, seven mummified individuals in a place called Deir el-Medina were studied by the archaeologist. Deir El-Medina was an ancient village that housed artisans responsible for the construction and decoration of the royal tombs that went to the famous Valley of the Kings. Unlike many other civilizations of the time, Deir El-Medina was a community designed to house these workers.
Although the identities of the tattooed mummies are unknown, interestingly, they were all women. The findings challenge an old theory that rare tattoos on women denoted fertility or sexuality in ancient Egypt. Deir el-Medina's marks, however, appear to be more closely associated with women's roles as healers or priestesses, Austin said.
In the findings revealed in 2017, the research team had found more figurative images, such as religious symbols, floral and important animal images, such as the cows of the goddess Hathor. The tattoos revealed this year, however, are more abstract and unidentified figures. "It is highly likely that, with more evidence, we will find clearer patterns of the location and symbolism of these tattoos, but this will have to wait for further study," she said.
So far, the oldest figurative tattoos in the world have been found on Ötzi the Iceman, an approximately 5,300-year-old Neolithic mummy that was discovered in Italy in 1991.