Ancient Egyptians Liked Body Art

More than 30 tattoos are scattered across this female mummy's skin. (Anne Austin)

Infrared Reveals Egyptian Mummies’ Hidden Tattoos

by Jason Daley/

The ancient Egyptians were known for decorating nearly every available surface, from the walls of temples to the interiors of tombs and every square inch of statues and furniture. But recent scholarship suggests the Egyptians’ penchant for adornment didn’t end here: As Bruce Bower reports for Science News, infrared images of seven 3,000-year-old mummies have revealed an array of hidden tattoos scattered across the ancients’ bodies.

Archaeologist Anne Austin of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, presented research on the tattooed mummies at the annual conference of the American Schools of Oriental Research in late November. Austin and her colleagues found the tattoos on mummified remains unearthed at a site called Deir el-Medina. The still-unidentified individuals were probably artisans and craft workers who helped construct and decorate the elaborate tombs found in the nearby Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.

According to the paper’s abstract, tattooing in ancient Egypt remains poorly understood. The civilization left very little record of the practice, and prior to the Deir el-Medina finds, researchers had only identified six other Egyptian mummies with tattoos…..

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  1. We got a lot of walking mummies nowadays, even in Russia. Tattoos and piercing: body, necks, faces. Disgusting. They are like wild tribesmen from Africa 🙂

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