ARCE DC: Shifting Perceptions of Tattooed Women in Ancient Egypt

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Presented by: Dr. Anne Austin

  • 12:00 PM ETWashington, D.C.
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Register via this link: arce.dc.news@gmail.com

Lecture Information

While the earliest evidence for tattooing on mummified human remains from ancient Egypt was found well over a century ago,  it has only been in the past decade that we have seen incredible growth in physical evidence for ancient Egyptian tattooing. This disparity between initial evidence for tattooing in the early twentieth century and more recent evidence allows us to compare how scholars have approached the topic over time.

With changes in evidence as well as broader changes in social attitudes toward tattooing today, the perceptions of tattoos in ancient Egypt have also shifted. As most evidence for tattooing has been specifically found on women, these shifting perceptions have in particular changed our attitudes around tattooed women in the past.

This talk will discuss both past and present interpretations of tattooing in ancient Egypt to problematize earlier scholarship and identify new pathways toward interpreting the function of tattoos in ancient Egyptian society.

Dr. Austin will end with some of the most recent discoveries from Deir el-Medina, from the 2019 and 2022 field seasons, which further expand our dataset of tattooed Egyptian women and suggest a more widespread, individualistic practice of tattooing among and, perhaps, by women in the village.

Speaker Bio

Dr. Anne Austin received her B.A. in anthropology from Harvard University, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in the archaeology program at UCLA. She joined the University of Missouri-St. Louis in 2017 after completing a three-year postdoctoral fellowship at Stanford University in the History Department.

Dr. Austin’s research combines the fields of osteology and Egyptology in order to document medicine and disease in the past. Specifically, she uses data from ancient Egyptian human remains and daily life texts to reconstruct ancient Egyptian health care networks and identify the diseases and illnesses people experienced in the past.

 While working in Egypt, Dr. Austin discovered the only known ancient Egyptian tattoos on a mummy with over 30 different tattoos.

 Her current research interests include the practice of tattooing in ancient Egypt and its potential connections to gender, religion, and medicine.