The surprising discovery in two mummies of 5,000 years ago that revolutionizes what we know about Ancient Egypt

The surprising discovery in two mummies of 5,000 years ago that revolutionizes what we know about Ancient Egypt


Two mummies of 5,000 years broke the schemes of scientists.

After discovering them 100 years ago in Upper Egypt, they thought that the spots on their arms were unimportant.

Now they have been able to see that they were actually tattoos. But not about anybody.

They are figurative drawings that were only believed possible in much more recent mummies.

The research team has managed to discover the designs thanks to infrared scanners and their work has been published in the journal specialized in archeology Journal of Archaeological Science .

Tattoo image of male mum.
Image caption Below you can see the wild bull with the horns and above, a little underhanded, the drawing of the ram.

Daniel Antoine, one of the main authors of the research work and curator of Physical Anthropology at the British Museum , says the discovery has “transformed” the idea that scientists had about how people lived at that time.

“We are learning aspects that we did not know about the lives of these people (whose mummies) have survived quite well, it seems incredible but it shows that the tattoos in Africa appeared a thousand years earlier than we thought,” he told the BBC.

Also in males

The images obtained by scanning one of the mummies, specifically that of the male, revealed that the tattoos represent two superimposed animals.

One of them seems to be a wild bull with a long tail and quite elaborate antlers and the other looks like a ram with horns and an arched back.

Until now archaeologists thought that only women wore tattoos at that time, but this finding shows that both sexes decorate the body in this way.

The female mummy has four small S-shaped motifs on her right shoulder.

Female mummy.
Image caption Figurative tattoos can mean certain status or superior knowledge within the tribe. (Photo: British Museum of London)

It also has a drawing that is believed to represent canes like those that would be used during ritual dances.

They are subcutaneous designs probably made of soot.


Archaeologists believe that tattoos would indicate a certain status within the community, bravery and even that these two individuals possessed some magical knowledge when they were alive.

The discovery of these two mummies took place in Gebelein, south of Upper Egypt, about 40 kilometers of what is now known as xor , a town located on the east bank of the Nile River.

The caves in which they were not very deep nor had special conditions for their conservation, but thanks to the heat, the salinity and the dryness of the desert have arrived in very good conditions until our days.

Image of the tattoo on the female mummy.
Image captionHere you can see the S-shaped motifs that run along the mummy’s shoulder. (Photo: British Museum of London).

Radiocarbon results indicate that they lived between 3351 and 3017 a. BC, shortly before the region was unified by the first pharaoh around 3100 BC. of C.

The oldest tattoo example is found in an alpine mummy known as Ötzi , which is believed to have lived between 3370 and 3100 BC but his tattoos are vertical or horizontal lines , rather than figurative, which is really the surprising thing about this find .

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