New research is revealing the secrets of ancient mummies of the British Museum. Using CAT scanners and infra-red reflectography, new details about the mummies’ lives have been uncovered, such as the angelic tattoo found on the inner thigh of a 1300-year-old Sudanese woman:
One of the mummies, whose remains were found just seven years ago, was so well preserved that archaeologists could almost make out the tattoo on her skin on the inner thigh of her right leg with the naked eye. Infra-red technology helped define it more clearly.
The woman, aged between 20 and 35, had been buried wrapped in a linen and woollen cloth and her remains had mummified in the dry heat. The tattoo has been deciphered by curators and spells out in ancient Greek – M-I-X-A-H-A, or Michael.
The owner of the tattoo was a woman who died in about AD 700 and lived in a Christian community on the banks of the Nile.
The tattoo represents the symbol of the Archangel Michael, who features in both the Old and New Testaments. The symbol has previously been found in ancient churches and on stone tablets, but never before in the form of a tattoo.
“You can see her tattoo really clearly using infra red reflectography,” said Dr Antoine, “The tattoo on her right inner thigh represents a monogram that spells Michael in ancient Greek.
“She is the first evidence of a tattoo from this period. This is a very rare find.”