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Scientists discover the world's oldest TATTOO on an Egyptian mummy dating back 5,200 years; Researchers from the British Museum have discovered tattoos on two natural mummies dating to between 3351 to 3017 BC.

Byline: Shivali Best

They're loved by an estimated 20 per cent of the UK today, and now scientists believe they have found the oldesttattooin the world.

Researchers from theBritish Museumhave discovered tattoos on two natural mummies dating to between 3351 to 3017 BC.

Tattoos depicting a wild bull and a Barbary sheep were found on the upper arm of a male mummy, while linear and S-shaped motifs were identified on the upper arm and shoulder of a female mummy.

The male mummy, known as Gebelein Man A, has been on display since his discovery around 100 years ago.

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Previous CT scans showed that Gebelein Man A was around 18-21 when he died from a stab wound to the back.

While dark smudges were found on his arms, until now, these remained unexamined.

But using infrared photography, the researchers revealed that these smudges were in fact tattoos of two slightly overlapping horned animals.

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The researchers suggest that the animals are a wild bull and a Barbary sheep - creatures well known in Predynastic Egyptian art.

The pigment used to make the tattoos was likely to be soot, according to the researchers.

The female mummy, known as Gebelein woman, also has several tattoos - a series of four small 'S' shaped motifs running over her right shoulder, and a linear motif on her right arm.

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The researchers believe the linear motif may represent a crooked stave - a symbol of power and status, or a throw-stick or batons and/or clappers used in ritual dance.

Both sets of tattoos would have been highly visible and may have denoted status, bravery, cult/magical knowledge or protection, according to the researchers.

Until now, the oldest tattoos were those on Otzi - an alpine mummy dating back to around 3370-3100 BC.

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Daniel Antoine, one of the lead authors of the study, said: "The use of the latest scientific methods, including CT scanning, radiocarbon dating and infrared imaging, has transformed our understanding of the Gebelein mummies.

"Only now are we gaining new insights into the lives of these remarkably preserved individuals.

"Incredibly, at over five thousand years of age, they push back the evidence for tattooing in Africa by a millennium."

CAPTION(S):

Credit: British Museum

Researchers from the British Museum have discovered tattoos on two natural mummies dating to between 3351 to 3017 BC

Credit: British Museum

The male mummy, known as Gebelein Man A, has been on display since his discovery around 100 years ago

Credit: British Museum

Tattoos depicting a wild bull and a Barbary sheep were found on the upper arm of a male mummy

Credit: British Museum

The female mummy, known as Gebelein woman, also has several tattoos

Credit: British Museum

The researchers believe the linear motif may represent a crooked stave

Credit: British Museum

The female mummy

Credit: British Museum

A series of four small 'S' shaped motifs were discovered running over her right shoulder
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Title Annotation:Science
Publication:Daily Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 1, 2018
Words:543
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