The Art Of Ancient Egyptian Tattooing
By Kum Martin
Man had been marking his body for thousands of years. These markings could be elaborate or plain and were used to show their status in the society or tribe, as amulets, highlight religious beliefs, as a form of punishment, or as declarations of love. The first evidence of ancient Egyptian tattooing was found on many female mummies from ancient Egypt. The mummies dated back to 2000 BC. Even an iceman recovered from the Italian Austrian border in 1991 had tattoos on his body. On carbon dating the iceman, archaeologists found that the remains were about 5,200 years old.
In archaeological excavations, ancient Egyptian tattooing tools have been found from the town of Gurob in northern Egypt. These tools were used around 1450 BC. The tools were made from bronze. Initially, the archaeologists assumed that the just females of dubious character were tattooed in ancient Egypt. However, the female mummies with tattoos were found at Deir el-Bahari, the site where royals and other important people were buried. And, of the female mummies was identified as Amunet based on the inscriptions and she was a high priestess in ancient Egypt.
For a long time, people thought that in the ancient times just prostitutes were tattooed, but this not true. According to Smithsonian magazine, women in ancient Egypt were tattooed, so that they would have a permanent amulet that would protect them during their pregnancy and subsequent birth. These tattoos were found around the stomach, on the upper parts of the thighs, and on the breasts. They were in the form of dots, distributed in a net-like manner. The fact that the mummies were found with figures of Bes, the household deity during ancient Egypt, convinced the archaeologists that this was a female custom during those times.
Although there is no written evidence about who made the tattoos in ancient Egypt, it is believed that the older women from the community were responsible for tattooing the younger women, similar to how it was done in Egypt during the 19th century. The tattoos were made using tools that had sharp points with wooden handles. One such tool was discovered in Abydos as well as Gurob by an archaeologist named W.M.F. Petrie and he dated the tool back to 3000 BC. The tool was made from bronze and looked very similar to a flat and wide needle. Most probably a bunch of the needles were used to make several dots on the body.
It may be interesting to note that these ancient tools used for tattooing were very similar in appearance to the tattoo tools used in Egypt during the 19th century. An English writer named William Lane described the way tattooing was done in ancient Egypt. He claimed that around seven needles were tied together for pricking the skin. Black wood or oil smoke was mixed with the woman’s breast milk and then rubbed into the patterns that were pricked. The gypsy women were responsible for tattooing and the girls between the ages of 5 and 6 were tattooed. The patterns were diamond shaped or lines made up of dots.
About The Author
Kum Martin is an online leading expert in history and education.