Northwest Chapter: Revealing the Practice of Tattooing in Ancient Egypt
Registration is Required
Presented by: Dr. Anne Austin
- 7:00 PM PT Northwest Chapter
Free and open to the public
The practice of tattooing in ancient Egypt is rarely attested. Egyptologists have identified tattoos on only a handful of mummies spanning Pharaonic Egypt’s more than 3,000 year history. Textual evidence is virtually silent on the practice and art historical evidence is often ambiguous. In 2014, the mission of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO) made an incredible find–an extensively tattooed mummy from the necropolis at Deir el-Medina, the community of the workmen who cut and decorated the New Kingdom’s royal tombs. With over 30 tattoos, this woman completely redefined what we knew about tattooing in ancient Egypt. The extensive use of Hathoric imagery in these tattoos further showed us the incredible amount of religious agency women could hold during a time when the title “priestess of Hathor” was not even attested.
Since then, we have used infrared imaging to identify dozens of new tattoos among the many unpublished human remains at the site. This talk presents the most recent findings from the bioarchaeological team of the 2020 and 2022 IFAO mission at Deir el-Medina. These additional tattoos indicate that many more individuals were likely tattooed at Deir el-Medina. Additionally, the designs and placement of tattoos varied broadly. Coalescing the physical and art historical evidence, this talk offers some of the most comprehensive evidence we have to date on the practice of tattooing in ancient Egypt.
Anne Austin is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Missouri—St. Louis. Her research combines the fields of osteology and Egyptology in order to better understand daily life in ancient Egypt. In her book, Anne uses data from ancient Egyptian human remains and daily life texts to reconstruct ancient Egyptian health care networks. While working in Egypt, Anne discovered the only known ancient Egyptian tattoos on a mummy with over 30 different tattoos. Anne’s current research project focuses on the practice of tattooing in ancient Egypt and its potential connections to gender, religion, and medicine.
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