Egyptian Mummies

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The Ancient Egyptians were experts at mummification. In the years since Egyptian mummies were first brought to the attention of the wider world, several instances of tattooing have been found on mummies. The tattooed individuals are exclusively female, and seem to be associated with ritual practices. Tattooing in Ancient Egypt most likely began at some stage during the Middle Kingdom, developing and improving through the New Kingdom.

The best known tattooed Egyptian mummy is the mummy of Amunet. Amunet was a priestess of Hathor, the goddess of love. Her well-preserved remains were discovered in Thebes in 1891. She has been dated to a period somewhere between 2200BC and 2000BC. As in other contemporaneous cultures, the tattoos are composed of arrangements of lines and dots. Prominent groups of parallel lines grace her arms and thighs, and below her navel is an elliptical motif.

A second notable example comes from the same period as Amunet. The woman was a dancer, and her arms and chest are tattooed with patterns of diamonds. She also has a series of geometric pattern across her abdomen, made up of lines and dots.

As time went on, the lines and dots were replaced with more complicated designs. From around 1500BC, mummies of dancers or other entertainers are found with abstract portrayals of the goddess Bes on their thighs.

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