Oldest 'tattoo art' discovered on ancient Egyptian mummies

Story highlights

  • World's oldest figurative tattoos discovered
  • They include animals thought to represent status and power

(CNN)The world's oldest figurative tattoos have been discovered on two 5,000-year-old mummies from Egypt.

Tattoos depicting a wild bull and a Barbary sheep were found on the upper arm of a male mummy, while the shoulder and upper arm of a female mummy bore "S"-shaped motifs.
The find, details of which are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, pushes back evidence for the tattooing in Africa by 1,000 years, and it overturns the belief that only women were tattooed in Predynastic Egypt -- the era before the country's unification by the first pharaoh about 3100 BC.
    "The symbols being tattooed are quite extraordinary," said Daniel Antoine, one of the lead researchers in the project and the British Museum's curator of physical anthropology.