Worlds first tattooed man had 5,000-year-old inkings and met violent death

The world's first tattooed man did not have a pleasant life, research has shown.

A team at the British Museum has found the world's oldest figurative tattoos, depicting a bull, sheep and music notes.

And it was found on two 5,000-year-old mummies from Egypt– nearly 1,000 years older than previously discovered tattoos.

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The specialist team used infrared technology on one of its oldest mummies to find the images on the body's upper arm of the male specimen, while the woman had them on her upper arm and shoulder.

Sadly for the male, it matters not what his tattoos showed because his death was caused by being knifed in the back.

A blog from the British History Museum explained: “The male mummy, known as ‘Gebelein Man A’ has been on display in the British Museum almost continuously since his discovery around 100 years ago. Previous CT scans showed that Gebelein Man A was a young man (18–21 years of age) when he died from a stab wound to the back.

“Dark smudges on his arm, appearing as faint markings under natural light, had remained unexamined.

“Infrared photography recently revealed that these smudges were in fact tattoos of two slightly overlapping horned animals.

“The horned animals have been tentatively identified as a wild bull (long tail, elaborate horns) and a Barbary sheep (curving horns, humped shoulder).

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“Both animals are well known in Predynastic Egyptian art.

“The designs are not superficial and have been applied to the dermis layer of the skin, the pigment was carbon-based, possibly some kind of soot.”

The images on the female specimen indicate that she had a position of mysticisms and magic – which was common in Ancient Egypt.

It is rare, however, for females of that period to have had tattoos, as it was thought that the practice was mainly reserved for men.

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The researcher, from 2018, added: “These finds demonstrate conclusively that tattooing was practised during Egypt’s Predynastic period (c. 4000–3100 BC) by both men and women.

“As the oldest known tattooed figural motifs, they add to our understanding of the range of potential uses of tattoos at the dawn of ancient Egyptian civilisation and expand our view of the practice of tattooing in prehistoric times.”

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