Recent work on the mummies of working people at Deir El-Medina in Egypt suggest that tattoos were much more common than previously thought 3,000 years ago. In the local cemetery, seven mummified women have been identified with tattoos. One had over 30!
The subject of the tattoos included sacred motifs such as Wadjet eyes, baboons, cobras, cows, scarab beetles, and lotus flowers. Some tattoos appear to have religious meaning, while others appear to offer healing or protection. Just like today, ancient Egyptians got tattoos for many reasons.
This may be a female shaman.
This fragment of an earthenware vessel inscribed with a possible drawing of
a woman shaman wearing a bird costume was uncovered in western Japan at
Shimizukaze, a site dating to the middle of the Yayoi Period, around
Nineteen other earthen vessels inscribed with human figures with
outstretched arms have been unearthed across Japan, but this is the
first to appear to have breasts.
Her eyes, nose, mouth, and one arm with five fingers are also visible on
the fragment, which measures just 5 inches by 6.5 inches.
Oda Tokuhime, the daughter of Oda Nobunaga, married Tokugawa Ieyasu’s five-year-old son Nobuyasu in 1563, when she herself was just five years old. The marriage, though for political advantage, became a happy one. The was just one problem: Tokuhime’s mother-in-law.
Lady Tsukiyama was so jealous and quarrelsome that even her husband had difficulty dealing with her. Among other things, she took a made a retainer’s daughter Nobuyasu’s concubine because Tokuhime had produced no sons by age 20 – although their two daughters would suggest that Tokuhime was certainly fertile enough.
At some point, Tokuhime decided she could not like with Tsukiyama anymore. She wrote an anonymous letter to her father, the very powerful Oda Nobunaga, and accused Lady Tsukiyama of treason. Tokugawa Ieyasu imprisoned his wife as a result, then to protect his alliance with Nobunaga, had her executed. But what would Nobuyasu, Tokuhime’s husband, do? Everyone was very concerned that he would seek an honorable revenge against Oda Nobunaga for the death of his mother. So Ieyasu ordered Nobuyasu to commit suicide by seppuku: his own son killed himself, to protect his father’s most important alliance. Tokuhime accidentally got rid of her husband while she was trying to get rid of her mother-in-law. Tokuhime lived another 50 years and never remarried.
This is Meritamun. Her name means “beloved of Amun,” the great Egyptian creator/sun god. She lived in ancient Egypt, sometime between 1500 BCE and 331 BCE, and was likely high status judging by the quality of the linens she was mummified with. Meritamun was between 18 and 25 when she died.