The oldest tattoo accessories have been discovered in the United States. Scientists believe they are at least three and a half thousand years old.
New microscopic studies of two turkey bones with pointed ends have shown that Native Americans used these objects to create tattoos from about 5,520 to 3,620 years ago.
According to archaeologist Aaron Deter-Wolfe of the Tennessee Department of Archeology in Nashville, these pigment-stained bones are the world's oldest known tattooing tools. The find suggests that the traditions of Native American tattooing in eastern North America are millennia deeper than previously thought.
The bones themselves were found during excavations in 1985 in a man's grave in the Fernvale area of Tennessee. According to the Deter-Wolfe team, the damage to and near the tips of two turkey bones resembles the characteristic wear and tear previously observed on experimental tattoo instruments made from deer bones.
In this experiment, the researchers sharpened the bones of a deer by making a series of punctures on fresh pieces of pigskin. The tips of the tools were coated with homemade ink. The experimental tattoo left ink particles a few millimeters from the tips of the instruments. A similar picture is observed with the remains of red and black pigment on the found turkey bones.
Additional indirect evidence that scientists have encountered exactly the tools for applying tattoos are seashells found in the same tomb of Fernvale. They were dyed with pigment and appear to have served as ink receptacles into which tattoo artists dipped their tools.
The earliest evidence of the practice of tattooing is the ancient human mummy, which survived due to the favorable climatic conditions. On a typical autumn day in 1991, German tourists in the Alps stumbled upon the frozen corpse of a man. Taking him for a victim of an unsuccessful mountaineering excursion, they decided that the poor fellow had been lying forgotten in the ice for many years. But when the remains were handed over to scientists, they found out - this "climber" is more than 5300 years old. On his body, 57 (and later all 61) tattoos in the form of lines and crosses were found.
Etzi's skin drawings are the oldest evidence of tattooing practice. It is now known for certain that even then people made cuts and rubbed a mixture of coloring pigments like coal with various herbs into them. Why they did it and wore these ancient tattoos, any meaning or not - so far remains in question. But there is speculation about Etzi. Most of the lines focus on the spine, knees and legs, which coincides with traditional acupuncture points (one of the branches of traditional Chinese medicine). Although it is generally accepted that this practice appeared 2000 years later than the life of this person. X-rays and more thorough examination confirmed that Ötzi did indeed suffer from back and leg pain from exertion while traveling in the Alps, and also suffered from arthritis and parasites in the gastrointestinal tract. The tattoos were just applied to the places where he was in pain.