Science & Tech
These 5,000-Year-Old Tattoos Are Among The World’s Oldest
These are some of the world’s oldest tattoos. The world’s first-known figurative body art were found on these 5,000-year-old mummies known as Gebelein Man A and Gebelein Woman.
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“It’s the first time in human history that people are mirroring art, which is usually on pottery, on rock art, on carved pallets, stone pallets, or carved ivory, onto their own bodies.” Dr. Daniel Antoine, a curator at the British Museum stated.
Gebelein Man A has a tattoo of a wild bull and what researchers think is a barbary sheep, which represent virility and strength. Gebelein Woman has S-shaped tattoos that researchers think are staves, batons, or ritual “clappers.” The same motif is also found on ceramics from the same era and the shape likely denotes status, bravery, or cult knowledge.
Both of the designs are tattooed on the mummies’ upper arms are were meant to be highly visible. The oldest known tattoos were found on a mummy called “Otzi,” but they were geometric, not figurative, which means they lacked symbolic meaning.
The Gebelein mummies have been on display for around 100 years but researchers only found the tattoos recently as part of a conservation and research program. British Museum researchers used infrared light and other tech to examine the bodies of the mummies.