Ancient Egyptian women got ‘tramp stamp’ tattoos to protect them and their child during labor
Ancient Egyptian women sported lower back tattoos, or ‘tramp stamps,’ more than 3,000 years before they were popularized in the late 1990s, and they did so to protect themselves during childbirth.
Two mummies discovered on the west bank of the Nile River were found to have ancient markings on preserved flesh on their backs, which researcher said are associated with the god Bes who was believed to protect women and children, specifically during labor.
Along with depictions of Bes, the markings included a bowl, which symbolizes a postnatal ritual, the Eye of Horus that represents protection and health and goats for good luck.
Anne Austin, one of the researches involved, told DailyMail.com that although they are not sure why was used to make the black-inked tattoos, other cultures have used soot or charcoal.
Several figurines were uncovered with the mummies, which also bear similar markings in the same places – on the lower back and upper thigh – and researchers are sue this provides even more evidence that the tattoos were used for protection.
Archaeologists discovered two female mummies in Egypt that feature tattoos on their lower backs. The lotus flowers in this image symbolize rebirth and the goats are for good luck. The center Eye of Horus represents protection and health
The ancient mummies are more than 3,000 years old, but their preserved flesh still bears markings etched in their skin prior to death
The mummies were discovered in the ancient town of Deir el-Medina, which was a bustling region from 1550 to 1070 BC when it was a community for the men who built the great tombs for the Egyptian elites, Phys.org reports.
Those living in the ancient town were deemed commoners and several of the mummies unearthed have been found with evidence of tattoos.
The latest work was conducted by two researchers, Austin with the University of Missouri at Saint Louis and the other at Johns Hopkins University, who analyzed two mummies – the team reported their findings in 2019.
One of the mummies was between 25 and 34 years old when she died and featured at least 30 tattoos on the neck, shoulders, arms and back – and they all were made prior to mummification. A human eye was found on her neck, a symbol associated with protection
She also had one on her lower back that features Bes wearing a crown of feathers. This god was believed to protect women and children, specifically during labor
Pictured is the preserved flesh of the mummy that features the images of the god bes
‘The more tattoos we find, the more I wonder if we have been missing them in other human remains from ancient Egypt,’ Austin told DailyMail.com.
‘As tattoos have become less stigmatized and as our technology and skills at identifying tattoos in archaeological contexts grow, I think it’s entirely possible we will find more evidence of tattooing.
‘In some cases in my own work, the tattoos would have been entirely overlooked if I wasn’t looking for them and I didn’t know how to detect them.’
The researchers used infrared photography to identify the tattoos, which used infrared light to uncover false colors and allowed the team to analyze the mummies without damaging them.
They used a scanner to take images of the tattooed flesh, allowing them to reconstruct the ancient markings.
The researchers used infrared photography to identify the tattoos, which used infrared light to uncover false colors and allowed the team to analyze the mummies without damaging them
One of the mummies was between 25 and 34 years old when she died and featured at least 30 tattoos on the neck, shoulders, arms and back – and they all were made prior to mummification.
A human eye was found on her neck, a symbol associated with protection.
She also had one on her lower back that features Bes wearing a crown of feathers.
The tattoo also had a zigzag line beneath the other figures, which likely represented a marsh, where people of the time would go to cool themselves and at times to ease pain, such as would be felt during childbirth.
The other woman, who died around the same age, has two lotus blossoms on each side of her lower back and, according to ancient Egyptian culture, this signifies rebirth.
Next to each flower is a goat, which ancient Egyptians used to reference fertility, abundance and good luck.