A 5000-year-old Egyptian mummy has become the oldest tattooed woman in the world after scientists found unusual motifs inked on her shoulders and arms.
While images of a wild bull, a Barbary sheep (a wild African species of sheep that looks a lot like a goat) were found on the upper arm of "Gebelein Man".
Horned animals and geometric motifs have been found tattooed on two Egyptian mummies.
The researchers, led by the natural anthropologist Daniel Antoan of the British Museum, who made the publication in the Journal of Archaeological Science, according to the BBC and the Guardian invoking the Athenian-Macedonian News Agency, used tomography techniques, infrared imaging and radiochronization to study tattoos.
'Only now are we gaining new insights into the lives of these remarkably preserved individuals.
It is likely the man wore the designs as symbolic displays of his strength. The discovery also shows that tattooing was practiced by both sexes at the time.
Uncovered in 1896 years ago in the Egyptian town of Gebelein, the mummies lived during the pre-dynastic period and date to some point between 3351 and 3017 BC. Previous CT scans showed that Gebelein Man A was a young man (18-21 years of age) when he died from a stab wound to the back. One stick-shaped tattoo found on her right arm resembles objects seen painted on ceramics from the period, while another collection of "S" shaped tattoos was found on her right shoulder. Incredibly, at over five thousand years of age, they push back the evidence for tattooing in Africa by a millennium'. One is interpreted to be a wild bull with a long tail and elaborate horns; the other appears to be a Barbary sheep with curving horns and a humped shoulder. Many ancient cultures used the art of tattoos.
Based on radiocarbon dating, the Gebelein ink is contemporary with The Iceman, and can, therefore, be considered among the earliest surviving tattoos in the world. The locations of Ötzi's tattoos, on acupuncture or healing points, suggest that they were used as a pain relief treatment, whereas the tattoos on the Egyptian mummies were on highly visible areas, created to be shown off. Today, this mummy is the oldest known women in the world with a tattoo on the body.
Until the tattoos were found on his skin, it was believed that only women were tattooed in the Predynastic Era, because no ancient depictions of tattooed men had been seen on female figurines produced during the period.