ONLINE | ARCE: Revealing the Practice of Tattooing in Ancient Egypt


Presented by Anne Austin, Assistant Professor of Anthropology & Archaeology at the University of Missouri St. Louis

The practice of tattooing in ancient Egypt is rarely attested. Egyptologists have identified tattoos on only a handful of mummies spanning Pharaonic Egypt’s more than 3,000 year history. Textual evidence is virtually silent on the practice and art historical evidence is often ambiguous. Recent discoveries, however, have begun to reveal the practice in ancient Egypt. In 2014, the mission of the Institut Français d’Archéologie Orientale (IFAO) identified an extensively tattooed mummy from the necropolis at Deir el-Medina, the community of the workmen who cut and decorated the New Kingdom’s royal tombs. The distribution, display, and content of these tattoos reveal how they were used both in religious practice and to forge permanent, public identities. These extensive tattoos demonstrate how they identified and enabled this woman to act as a key religious practitioner for the Deir el-Medina community. While this exciting discovery reveals one example of tattooing, how common was the practice? Was tattooing in the New Kingdom restricted to women or worship of Hathor?

Luckily, recent discoveries at Deir el-Medina indicate that this woman was not alone. This talk presents additional tattoos found and analyzed during the 2019-20 seasons using infrared photography. They indicate that many more individuals were likely tattooed at Deir el-Medina. Additionally, the designs and placement of tattoos varied broadly. Coalescing the physical and art historical evidence, this talk offers some of the most comprehensive evidence we have to date on the practice of tattooing in ancient Egypt. 

Sponsored by Pam McRoberts and Eva Kirsch in partnership with the American Research Center in Egypt: Orange County Chapter

Location: ONLINE

Ticketed Event: Free for Bowers and ARCE Members | General $6 | Ticketholders will receive a private link to view the online presentation at 12:30 PM on the day of the program.


TICKETS: Online. Questions? E-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 714.567.3677. Proceeds benefit Bowers Museum Education Programs. Tickets are non-refundable.

Event details

October 10, 2020 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm