Researchers from Oxford University found the oldest tattoo ever discovered in the world on the arms of two Egyptian mummies that date back to the Predynastic period, according to Reuters.
The British Museum, where the two mummies are located, stated on Thurdsay that the tattoos are located on the upper arms of the male and female mummies, describing the male’s tattoo depicting a bull and a Barbary sheep, while the woman’s tattoo shows linear and S-shaped motifs.
Researchers pointed out that the female tattoos signify bravery or magical knowledge, while the male’s tattoos are symbols of virility and strength.
The museum said that the tattoos appear like dark smudges under light. However, researchers at the British Museum and Oxford University’s Faculty of Oriental Studies discovered the tattoos in 2017 using infrared photography.
“It’s actually providing completely new insights into the use of tattooing,” Daniel Antoine, curator of physical anthropology at the British Museum, told Reuters.
“The location of these tattoos suggests they were designed to be highly visible on the upper arm and the shoulder,” he said, adding that the discoveries push back by 1,000 years evidence for tattooing in Africa.
The mummies were discovered 100 years ago, buried at an archaeological site 40 kilometres away from Luxor. According to researchers’ studies, they date to 3351 to 3017 BC. Before the discovery, researchers believed that tattooing was only applied on women in Africa.
According to Reuters, the oldest surviving tattoos are geometric designs on a mummified corpse known as Otzi, who lived around 5,300 years ago and was discovered preserved in the Italian Alps in 1991.