|Tattoos at Deir el-Medina
|"Egyptian Mummy's Symbolic Tattoos Are 1st of Their Kind"
"More than 3,000 years ago, an ancient Egyptian woman tattooed her body with dozens of symbols -
including lotus blossoms, cows and divine eyes - that may have been linked to her religious status or her
ritual practice, Mindy Weisberger, livescience Senior Writer writes. Preserved in amazing detail on her
mummified torso, the surviving images represent the only known examples of tattoos found on Egyptian
mummies showing recognizable pictures, rather than abstract designs. The mummy was found at Deir el-
Stanford University bioarchaeologist Anne Austin was examining human remains at Deir el-Medina for the
French Institute of Oriental Archaeology when she first found unusual markings on a mummy's neck.
Austin initially thought the markings on the neck had been painted there. It was a common practice in
Egypt at that time to place amulets around the neck before a burial. Austin suggested that amulets
could have been drawn on the skin for the burial as well, which could have been the case for this torso.
But further investigation of the mummy revealed that these ancient illustrations - and others on the
body - were unusual, hinting that they might be a more permanent skin adornment than a painted design.
Together with archaeologist Cédric Gobeil, director of the French Archaeological Mission at Deir el-
Medina, Austin catalogued dozens of tattoos, many of which have yet to be identified. But a number of
them were recognizable and had religious significance.
"Several are associated with the goddess Hathor, such as cows with special necklaces," Austin said.
"Others - such as snakes placed on the upper arms - are also associated with female deities in ancient
The mummy's neck, back and shoulders were decorated with images of Wadjet eyes — divine eyes
associated with protection. (..)"
With photo of the throat tattoo:
Intricate animal and flower tattoos found on Egyptian mummy
"(..) “Any angle that you look at this woman, you see a pair of divine eyes looking back at you,” says
bioarchaeologist Anne Austin of Stanford University in California, who presented the findings last month
at the 85th annual meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in a paper called
"Embodying the Goddess: Tattooing and Identity Formation in Bioarchaeology" (..)"
"(...) Austin knew of tattoos discovered on other mummies using infrared imaging, which peers more
deeply into the skin than visible-light imaging, Traci Watson from Nature magazine writes. With help
from infrared lighting and an infrared sensor, Austin determined that the Deir el-Medina mummy boasts
more than 30 tattoos, including some on skin so darkened by the resins used in mummification that they
were invisible to the eye. Austin and Cédric Gobeil, director of the French mission at Deir el-Medina,
digitally stretched the images to counter distortion from the mummy’s shrunken skin".
A slideshow of photos of several tattoos (baboons and Wadjet eyes, Hathor cows):
Ornately-tattooed 3,000-year-old mummy discovered by archaeolgists
Abstract of the lecture at "The 85th Annual Meeting of the American Association of
Physical Anthropologists" (2016):
"(...) existing scholarship on tattoos remains mostly descriptive, making it necessary to develop a
conceptual framework to better understand how tattooing can advance bioarchaeological research
on identity. In this paper, I present such a framework using ancient Egypt as a case study. I propose
indicators for seven rationales for tattooing that can be assessed through combining bioarchaeological
data with the systematic analysis of the placement, orientation, order, and symbolism of tattoos."
An excellent illustrated presentation by Anne Austin about these finds [3 min. 49 sec]: