The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Ornately-tattooed 3,000-year-old mummy discovered by archaeolgists

The mummy's torse is ordained with ornate pictures of plants and animals

Two seated baboons and a wadjet eye adorn the mummy's neck
Two seated baboons and a wadjet eye adorn the mummy's neck

Ornate tattoos of animals and plants have been discovered adorning the body of a 3,000-year-old Egyptian mummy, in a first for archaeology.

Bioarchaeologist Anne Austin, from Stanford University, came across the unusual markings while examining the preserved body of a woman found in the ancient village of Deir el-Medina, once home to workers who crafted tombs in the nearby Valley of the Kings.

Although the remains are only comprised of a torso, they bear more than 30 distinctive tattoos, which Austin initially mistook for paint.

Closer inspection revealed the tattoos depicted lotus blossoms, cows, baboons and 'wadjet eyes', ancient symbols of power, which Egyptians believed would protect them from evil.

Stretching across the mummy's hips, arms, back and neck, the tattoos are unlike anything seen before by archaeologists. Tattoos found on Egyptian mummies are typically simple patterns of dots and dashes, but these are the first to be discovered which depict actual objects and creatures.

As Nature reports, Austin used infrared imaging to uncover tattoos which were obscured by the embalming resins used to preserve the mummy. Austin and Cédric Gobell, researchers from the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology who are based at Deir el-Medina, used software to stretch the infrared images, to make up for the mummy's wrinkled skin.

Austin believes the tattoos were meant to show off and enhance the woman's religious power and piety, with some of the tattoos having links to ancient deities.

It's not known who the woman was or what role she may have played in society, but the tattoos suggest she was an important figure. As Austin told Nature, the tattooing process would have been "very time consuming, and in some areas of the body, extremely painful."

Her apparent devotion to tattoos shows "not only her belief in their importance, but others around her as well," Austin said.

The woman is believed to have been mummifed between 1300 and 1070 BC, but her tattoos are not the oldest ever discovered. That honour belongs to Ötzi, the name given to a natural mummy found in Austria's Ötztal alps in 1991.

Ötzi is believed to have died around 3250BC, and had 61 tattoos, which depicted simple patterns.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in