Tattoos on the mummies of ancient Egypt aren’t unheard of, but up until now there have been relatively few examples of them, and they have all been geometric in style – made up of various dots, dashes, and lines tattooed into the skin.
An Ancient Tattooed Mummy
A 3,000-year-old mummy has been found with intricate and symbolic tattoos, proving to be a first for scientists and researchers of ancient Egypt. The tattooed woman was found near Deir el-Medina, which once housed a village of artisans and workers that worked on the great tombs of the nearby Valley of the Kings and appears to date back to around 1070 BC.
What sets this mummy apart from the others that have come before her are the designs of her tattoos. These aren’t just simple geometric patterns, as have been found on Egyptian mummies previously. These are detailed and specific symbols that seem to have some deep meaning, most likely spiritual in nature.
The tattooed mummy has lotus blossoms tattooed on her hips, cows on her arms, and baboons on her neck. And the most significant of the tattoos on this mummy are the “wadjet eyes,” which archeologists believe are meant to operate as symbolic protection against evil for the bearer of the sacred designs. These divine eye tattoos are on the mummy’s neck, shoulders, and back. According to the archeologist in charge of this amazing new find, every angle of viewing this mummy is sure to reveal one of her divine eye tattoos. Apparently, she wanted to make sure that she was literally covered by protection from every direction.
Using infrared imaging to study the mummy, scientists have been able to look beneath the skin and see more deeply into this new discovery. It appears that the mummy has more than 30 tattoos, although some of them aren’t visible to the naked eye, due to the darkening of the skin from the resins used in the mummification process.
The tattoos that have been revealed so far show a very deep religious connection. Many of them (such as the cows on her arms) are linked with the goddess Hathor, who was one of the most popular deities of ancient Egypt. The symbols that were tattooed on the mummy’s throat and arms might have been meant to give her a stronger connection with Hathor while the woman prayed and sang the goddess’s praises.
Some Egyptologists believe that the tattoos might also be a sign of the seriousness of this woman’s devotion to her religious practices and beliefs. She wanted the world to know that she was completely devoted to her chosen deities. It also appears that some of the tattoos are more faded than others, which could mean that this deeply spiritual Egyptian woman increased the numbers of tattoos on her body as she grew older and her faith system deepened and grew.
Using Science to Uncover Tattooing Secrets
Archeologists working on this project have also found several more tattooed mummies in and around Deir el-Medina, and hope that the more modern technology that they now have access to will help them to discover even more of these amazing ancient Egyptian finds.
Scientists believe that the location and design of this new mummy’s tattoos indicate that they were much too intricate for every-day use or mere decoration. The tattoos were in places on the body that would require another person to apply them to the skin, and in areas that would be very painful to receive tattoos. This indicates that the woman subjected herself to a long and torturous process of hand tattooing with sharp needles and blunt force for a very good reasons — these tattoos held deep meaning and importance to her, and she wanted everyone that saw her adorned body to know just how important her beliefs were.
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