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Egyptian mummies with tattoo of Archangel Michael

High-tech scans of ancient mummies revealed tattoo of Archangel Michael

In 2014, a team of scientists in London carried out high-tech scanning on eight Egyptian mummies from the British Museum, uncovering fascinating information about them, including the revelation that one of the female mummies apparently has a tattoo symbolizing Archangel Michael on her inner thigh.

The eight mummies lived during different eras and came from different walks of life, from royalty to citizens living along the Nile. One of the mummies was only around two years of age when he died, while others lived to see their 50th birthday. The oldest mummy tested is more than 5,500 years old, while the most recent lived around 1,300 years ago.

The mummies underwent computerised tomography scans (CT scans) and infra-red reflectography at London hospital, which revealed what lay underneath their wrappings for the first time.  The scans enabled the scientists to build up a 3D image of the ancient remains, revealing bones, tissue, and vital organs.

The results revealed that the Egyptians suffered from some of the same health issues that plague us today, including high cholesterol, fatty diets, heart problems, and dental issues. But most fascinating of all was the discovery of a tattoo on a female mummy, aged between 20 and 35, which Dr David Antoine, curator of physical anthropology at the British Museum, described as “truly a unique and remarkable find”.

A depiction of Archangel Michael - Egyptian Mummies

A photograph, left, and an infra-red reflectography of the tattoo found on the mummified remains of a Sudanese woman. Photo credit: Trustees of the British Museum

The 1,300-year-old female mummy was different from the others in that her remains were found in Sudan and she had been naturally-preserved by the hot and arid environment. Her tattoo represents the symbol of the Archangel Michael, who features in both the Old and New Testaments, and who was the Patron Saint of Medieval Sudan.

“The tattoo on her right inner thigh represents a monogram that spells Michael in ancient Greek,” said Dr Antoine. “We have found other examples of the monogram, but never in the form of a tattoo.”

A depiction of Archangel Michael

A depiction of Archangel Michael. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Michael is an archangel in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic teachings. In the New Testament Michael leads God's armies against Satan's forces in the Book of Revelation, where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.  Christian sanctuaries to Michael appeared in the 4th century, when he was first seen as a healing angel, and then over time as a protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil. By the 6th century, devotions to Archangel Michael were widespread both in the Eastern and Western Churches.

The  mummies and the detailed results of the scans were displayed in an exhibition titled “Ancient Lives: New Discoveries”. The exhibition drew controversy as many protested that the display of deceased individuals is disrespectful, and not in accordance with what they would have wished.

Featured image: CT scan 3D visualisation of the mummified remains of a Sudanese woman. Photo credit: Trustees of the British Museum

By April Holloway

 

Comments

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Loved the history and archaeology on this page

It's interesting that this tattoo has a Cross, which was never an original christian symbol, but was major pagan symbol of most of the nations surrounding Israel. Such adopted symbols into apostate Christianity didn't get a real foothold until 300 CE, as other beliefs such as the reverence for Saints.

Interesting. At first I thought it was a cross but the more I looked at it the more I feel it represents Archangel Michael's Sword. Hmmmmm....

A fascinating find!

I"m so pleased to read your column. I'm a history nut and this is the first of anything historical I've seen on the computer. Thanks

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