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Healing Power Of Ancient Tattoos

Ancient tattoos may have had more than just a decorative function.

tattoo on man's flexed upper arm

Photo: Jhong Dizon (flickr)

Decorative body art may give some people strength of mind, but perhaps these ancient tattoos provided physical strength as well.

A Moment of Science is warming up for Halloween Week with a little mummy investigation!

Scientists stumbled upon this 1000-year-old mystery buried in Peruvian desert sands. What was it? Or rather, who was she?

Will You Still Want That In 1000-Years?

No one knows for sure who this ancient woman really was, however, strange markings on her mummified skin can give scientists clues to the medicine and culture of her time.

The tattoos covering her hands, arms and legs showed decorative symbols and artistic depictions of birds, apes and reptiles. These tattoos were made using soot, a common ancient method. While these markings were visually intriguing, they were not what stuck the fascination of the research team.

She had other tattoos, on the neck, which formed mysterious circular patterns. These tattoos were not made with regular soot. They were made with burned remains of particular plant materials. What was the reason for this?

Power Of The Poke

Analysts took a closer look at the circular patterns, and when they did, they found something very interesting.

The patterns seem to run very close to Chinese acupuncture points. Acupuncture was used in Chinese medicine for healing and muscle relaxing purposes. It is thought that the burned plant material may have also played a medicinal role. But how do we know for sure?

These scientists took their questions to a modern-day shamanic healer in Peru. After careful consideration of the patterns, he suggested that these ancient tattoos were a part of a strengthening ritual, which was reserved for high society individuals.

Imagine if your salon treatments out-lived you by over 1000 years! You’d really be getting your money’s worth.

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Molly Plunkett

is a journalism student at Indiana University and an online producer for A Moment of Science. She is originally from Wheaton, IL.

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