Tattoos are one of the most ancient forms of body art. But because tattoos exist on flesh and are quick to rot, only rare examples have survived from antiquity. For millennia, these permanent body markings are used as social identifiers, religious icons, and cosmetic enhancements.
10. Priestess Of Hathor
While exploring the ancient Nile village of Deir el-Medina, archaeologists discovered an intricately tattooed, 3000-year-old mummy. The find came from an area that once housed workers who built the Valley of the Kings. Advanced imaging technology revealed 30 separate inkings across the mummy’s back, neck, arms, and shoulder. Designs include eyes, snakes, lotus blossoms, and cows. Many of the markings are linked with the goddess Hathor, leading to her nickname: Priestess of Hathor.
The Priestess of Hathor’s tattoos are the oldest representative image tattoos in Egypt. Earlier Egyptian body marking are in the Nubian style—dots and lines formed into abstract geometric designs. Their Priestess’s designs differ. They are clear and easily identifiable depictions of real-world objects. Divine imagery in prominent positions on her body indicates they were most likely for religious cult activity.