Many of us have a tattoo or two these days - but a 3,000-year-old mummy has now shown just how far back our love of ink goes.
The embalmed body of an ancient Egyptian, found in the village of Deir el-Medina, was found to be covered in ornate tattoos by bioarchaeologist Anne Austin, Nature journal reported.
Austin, from Stanford University, initially thought that the markings on the headless and armless torso, which dates from between 1300 and 1070BC, had been painted on.
But she soon realised that the images, which included lotus blossoms on the mummy’s hips, cows on her arm and baboons on her neck, were tattoos.
Also featured on the mummy’s neck shoulders and back were wadjet eyes, believed to be symbols of protection against evil.
Austin said: “Any angle that you look at this woman, you see a pair of divine eyes looking back at you.”
The tattoos are believed to be sacred symbols, possibly used to advertise and strengthen religious or supernatural powers.
Austin said that the inking of the tattoos, of which there are more than 30, “would’ve been very time consuming, and in some areas of the body, extremely painful”.
She added that the fact that the woman had endured so many inkings demonstrated “not only her belief in their importance, but others around her as well”.
Very few ancient Egyptian mummies have tattoos and even then, they are just patterns of dots or dashes, making this an incredibly exciting find.
The tattoos were initially obscured by the resin used in the embalming process but were uncovered by Austin using infrared imaging.
Some of the markings found were even invisible to the naked eye.
Emily Teeter, an Egyptologist at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, said she was “dumbfounded” when she heard of the discovery.
She added: “We didn’t know about this sort of expression before.”