Ancient Egyptian ladies’ tattoos were meant to protect them during childbirth. decodes the messages left in the skin of mummies unearthed in the 1920s – ancient Egyptian women who had themselves permanently marked with signs meant to inspire a complication-free childbirth:

In their paper published in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Marie-Lys Arnette and Anne Austin, describe the tattoos and outline their ideas regarding why the women had them.

The researchers were studying two female mummies removed from two tombs in the village. One had been looted and the mummy unwrapped. In studying the mummified skin, the researchers found evidence of a tattoo. They were able to make out representations of a bowl, a purification ritual and a depiction of Bes, an Egyptian God whose role was to protect women and children, most especially during childbirth.

The second mummy, still wrapped, was studied using infrared photography (archaeologists no longer unwrap mummies). It turned out to be the remains of a middle-aged woman with another tattoo. This tattoo showed a wedjat (eye of Horace) and Bes, this time wearing a crown made of feathers. It 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 researchers suggest the two tattoos appear to represent a request by those bearing them for protection during childbirth.

You can read more of their findings here, in The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology.