>> From flowers to animals, tattooing images of the world onto our bodies is nothing new, but it might be much older than we thought. Tattoos have been discovered on two 5,000 year old Egyptian mummies, the first examples ever of body art imitating life.>> It's the first time in human history that people are mirroring art, which is usually on pottery, on rock art, on curved palates, stone palates, or curved ivory, onto their own bodies.
>> Known as Gebelein Man A and Gebelein Woman, these are natural mummies preserved by the dry heat of the desert. They're from the pre-dynastic period, before Egypt was unified under one pharaoh, making them the oldest evidence of tattooing in Africa. Otzi, the Iceman, from Europe's Alps, also around 5000 years old, is thought to have the world's oldest tats.
But his are geometric, not figurative. The pair have been at the British Museum in London for 100 years, but the tattoos only came to light after researchers used infrared technology to see them. And what they found gives us insight into who these people were.>> She has a crooked stave on the upper part of her arm, and on her shoulders She has a series of s's.
We have parallels for this imagery in the pottery of the time. Often, in ceremonial scenes on pottery, we see people holding a very similar shaped instrument. And it's likely to represent a symbol of maybe status, or maybe power.>> Her body art is the oldest example of tattooing on a woman anywhere in the world.
Gebelein Man A's tattoos are of a barberry sheep and a bull, identifiable by their horns. The bull is likely to be a symbol of virility and strength. Not that it protected Gebelein Man A. He died from a stab wound in his back, aged between 18 and 21. Both tattoos were designed to be highly visible, located on the upper arm or shoulder.
Through the work of researchers, these Egyptians can show off their ink once again.