Archive for category Archaeology

Ancient Tattoos


acupuncture points
Image by run dorkas run via Flickr

I was intrigued to read the following article in New ScientistAncient tattoos linked to healing ritual”.

This article was about analysis which had been done on the tattoos preserved on a Peruvian mummy. This Peruvian mummy has been dated as about 1000-year-old, and is of a forty-something Peruvian woman. This contained two interesting medical discoveries. These were that:

  • the woman had suffered from tuberculosis. The diagnosis of TB in the “New World”, prior to the arrival of Europeans, lets the European discoverers “off the hook” for one  disease which could have devastated the populations of the New World.
  • the woman had, what appears to be two different types of tattoos. Some of the tattoos appeared to be medicinal, and others could have been for ritual purposes. The medicinal tattoos appear to be close to Chinese Acupuncture Points.

This correlation between the  tattoos and Chinese Acupuncture points, reminded me of the frozen man from the Swiss Alps and his tattoos (World’s oldest tattoos were made of soot ).  Again, here analysis of the tattoos location indicated that there could be for medicinal purposes, and that tattoos appeared to align with Chinese Acupuncture points.

These two sets of discoveries leave me wondering about a number of things. Which include:

  • How common were  tattoos in ancient cultures?
  • Do Egyptian mummies have tattoos? If they do what forms do they take?
  • Did any of the ancient bodies found in peat bogs in the UK, and Ireland, have tattoos?
  • When did Chinese acupuncture begin? I’m sure there is a long history in Chinese recorded history, but was the just the codification of something which has had a much longer history.

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