Archeologists say the tattoos on this Egyptian woman, who lived 3,000 years ago, were intentionally placed on visible areas such as the neck in order to signify her important religious role. When Stanford University archeologist Anne Austin began her inspection of the 3,000-year-old body, it was immediately apparent something unusual had happened to the long-deceased woman. The skin across the ancient Egyptian’s neck was marked in bruise-blue lines, as though someone had doodled across the corpse’s throat in lieu of placing the traditional burial amulets Austin had expected to see.
Upon closer examination, however, Austin and her colleagues realized the designs were permanent, having withered and warped by time but also the act of post-mortem preservation. The woman had been tattooed, the scientists determined, when she was alive.
“The markings at the neck were the clearest, and the symbols for them were instantly visible,” the archeologist wrote in an email to the Washington Post. “However, it was only after looking more closely at the markings on the arms that we realized they had become distorted from the mummification process.”
Austin, along with researchers from the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology, had been examining a body uncovered at Deir el-Medina, Egypt, a village near the Nile River that once housed the workers who designed and constructed the pharaoh’s tombs in the Valley of the Kings.
During Deir el-Medina’s peak — which would have been between 1292 and 1077 BC, according to Stanford University — its residents were both literate and prolific, leaving behind the remnants of thousands of prayer notes, lawsuits and letters that researchers would find much later.
Austin also believes the town practiced a precursor, of sorts, to modern medical coverage; in 2014, she said artifacts from Deir el-Medina show evidence of “the earliest documented governmental health care plan.”
The residents of Deir el-Medina, it seems, also knew their way around a tattooing needle. Austin documented the mummy’s blue lines with infrared photographs and other advanced imaging equipment, and […]