Researchers have discovered the earliest figurative tattoos on Egyptian mummies dating back 5,200 years. The tattoos depict a wild bull and barbary sheep on the upper arm of the Gebelein Man A, and a series of S-shapes on the shoulder of the Gebelein Woman in the British museum.
The Gebelein Man A and the Gebelein Woman, are two of the six predynastic mummies discovered by Wallis Budge near the Egyptian ruin of Gebelein (Naga el-Gherira) in 1895. Together, they are considered the first complete bodies discovered from the late Predynastic period of Ancient Egypt.
Infrared scans revealed two locked horns, that initially appeared to researchers as dark smudges. The wild bull symbol has been described as being adorned by ancient civilisations as a symbol of bravery, strength or virility.
CT scans from a previous study found that the Gebelein Man died from a stab wound to his back when he was approximately 20 years old.
The Gebelein Woman also had a series of S-shaped motifs inked on her shoulder. These are speculated to represent batons or clappers used in ritual dance.
In a bid to rewrite tattoo history, the findings were published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, which detailed the research of the mummified couple from 3100 BC, the period of Predynastic Art that precedes the Pharaohs unification of Egypt.
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This article originally appeared on VICE AU.