Tattoos: Between the Tribal and the Universal
used to relieve stress, by inserting medicinal plants into the body through
the skin, thereby helping to restore balance and harmony to the body.
Deter-Wolf mentions the mummified remains of a tattooed man,
dating back to 3,563-1,972 cal BC, who belonged to the Chinchorro culture
in northern Chile and southern Peru. This was an adult man with a
mustache-like dotted line tattooed above his upper lip.
mummies, belonging to various cultures, such as the Chimú, Moche, and
were discovered throughout South America.
The remains of humans and tools from ancient cultures which
practiced body tattooing, were also discovered in all the Arctic Circle and
its surroundings, including Alaska, St. Lawrence Island,
the Altai Mountains in Siberia.
Material and iconographic evidence of tattoos were found in Egypt
and Nubia. These findings belong to a period that spans across at least
four thousand years (from the 4
millennium BC onwards) – making it
the longest known tattooing history so far.
The evidence indicates that
women were mainly the ones to tattoo their body as part of initiation and
rites of passage rituals following physiological changes. The tattoos were
used to enhance the women’s fertility, as well as in birth rituals. Another
example of ancient remains of a human tattooed body is the “Amunet
mummy” from Deir el-Bahari in Egypt, which dates back to the Middle
Kingdom Period (2040-1640 BC). A fine wooden coffin was found holding
the remains of a tattooed woman, believed to be a priestess of the Egyptian
goddess Hathor –
. The body was tattooed with scattered dots
and lines; under her navel is an elliptical form composed of similar dots
and lines. Another female mummy, which was identified as a dancer, was
tattooed with the shape of a rhombus also composed of a sequence of dots
Ancient Egyptian female figurines fashioned from clay or faience,
dating back to the 4th millennium BC, bear body decorations, which
probably represents tattoos. During the Middle Kingdom Period, small
figurines made of blue faience, buried with the dead and known as the
“brides of the dead,” were adorned with patterns identical to those seen in