Nature pulls back the veil on those smudges seen on Egyptian mummies on display for more than a century – that, it turns out, are actually tattoos of animals and ritual tools:
Scrutiny of mummies at the British Museum in London revealed tattoos on both Gebelein Man A, who dates to roughly 3350–3020 bc, and an Egyptian mummy of similar age named Gebelein Woman. The man’s tattoos appear to depict a wild bull and a goat-like animal called a Barbary sheep, say Daniel Antoine, a researcher at the museum; Renée Friedman at the University of Oxford, UK; and their colleagues. The woman’s tattoos include one that seems to show an L-shaped ceremonial object.
Similar tattoos on Oetzi the Iceman are about as old, but only depict geometric patterns (or, maybe, acupuncture guides).