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Humans have been marking their skin for thousands of years. Around the world, across cultures, tattoos have held countless different significances. Ancient Siberian nomads, Indigenous Polynesians, Nubians, Native South Americans and Greeks all used tattoos—and for a variety of reasons: to protect from evil; declare love; signify status or religious beliefs; as adornments and even forms of punishment.
She specializes in ancient Egyptians, who she says were long thought to be the earliest tattoo artists, thanks to the discovery of tattooed mummies. According to a study by the Pew Research Center , 32 percent of people in the United States have at least one tattoo, and many of those Americans share common motivations.
Sixty-nine percent of tattooed adults in the U. Turns out, many of our historical counterparts around the world had similar motivations. In terms of tattoos on actual bodies, the earliest known examples were for a long time Egyptian and were present on several female mummies dated to circa B. But following the more recent discovery of the Iceman from the area of the Italian-Austrian border in and his tattoo patterns, this date has been pushed back a further thousand years when he was carbon-dated at around 5, years old.
Following discussions with my colleague Professor Don Brothwell of the University of York, one of the specialists who examined him, the distribution of the tattooed dots and small crosses on his lower spine and right knee and ankle joints correspond to areas of strain-induced degeneration, with the suggestion that they may have been applied to alleviate joint pain and were therefore essentially therapeutic.
Also small bronze implements identified as tattooing tools were discovered at the town site of Gurob in northern Egypt and dated to circa B. And then, of course, there are the mummies with tattoos, from the three women already mentioned and dated to circa B. And although it has long been assumed that such tattoos were the mark of prostitutes or were meant to protect the women against sexually transmitted diseases, I personally believe that the tattooing of ancient Egyptian women had a therapeutic role and functioned as a permanent form of amulet—[an ornament meant to protect its wearer]—during the very difficult time of pregnancy and birth.