The world’s oldest tattoo gear.

Science News looks at some sharpened bones found at a site in Tennessee. They seem to be 3,600-year-old Native American tattoo tools:

These pigment-stained bones are the world’s oldest known tattooing tools, say archaeologist Aaron Deter-Wolf of the Tennessee Division of Archaeology in Nashville and his colleagues. The find suggests that Native American tattoo traditions in eastern North America extend back more than a millennium earlier than previously thought. Ötzi the Iceman, who lived around 5,250 years ago in Europe, displays the oldest known tattoos, but researchers haven’t found any of the tools used to make the Iceman’s tattoos.

Excavations in 1985 revealed these turkey bones and other elements of a probable tattoo kit in a man’s burial pit at Tennessee’s Fernvale site, the researchers report in the June Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. Damage on and near the tips of the two turkey leg bones resembles distinctive wear previously observed on experimental tattooing tools made from deer bones, Deter-Wolf’s team says. In that research, tattooed lines in fresh slabs of pig skin were produced by a series of punctures with tools that had tips coated in a homemade ink. Experimental tattooing left ink remnants several millimeters from tools’ tips, a pattern also seen with red and black pigment residues on the Fernvale tools.

Photos of the turkey-bone needles are at the link. You can read the research here.