March 11, 2019

Oldest Tattoo Kit in North America Uncovered

A Ph.D candidate at Washington State University found the oldest tattoo tool in North America when taking inventory of archaeological materials stored for more than 40 years. It is dated at 2000 years old. This pushes back the earliest evidence of tattoo tools in North America back 1000 years. The tool was from the Basketmaker II  culture in the Southwest. No tattoos have been found on human remains in the Southwest and no accounts of its use have been recorded there. Earlier cactus tattoo tools have been found at 1100-1280 CE. There are depictions of tattooing in ancient artwork. The cactus tool that the student found was at a Utah site that is 1000 years older than the known cactus tools.
The tool consists of a 3 ½ inch wooden skunkbush sumac handle bound at the end with split yucca leaves and holding two parallel cactus spines, stained black at their tips.
The tool was put under an electron microscope, X-ray florescence and energy dispersive ray spectroscopy.

A research report has been published at; Andrew Gillreath-Brown et al, Redefining the age of tattooing in western North America: A 2000-year-old artifact from Utah, Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports (2019).  DOI: 10.1016/j.jasrep.2019.02.015 has the story here;

Mike Ruggeri’s Moundbuilders/Ancient Southwest News on Tumblr

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