Amazing tattoos covered ancient Siberian princess
August 15, 20121:31PM
|A reconstruction of the female "Princess Ukok" who died and was buried in c. 400 BCE.|
Natalia Polosmak, the scientist who found the remains of Princess Ukok high in mountains close to Russia's border with Mongolia and China, said she was struck by how little has changed in the past two millennia.
Tattoos of mythological creatures and complex patterns are believed to have been status symbols for the ancient nomadic Pazyryk people first described by the Greek historian Herodotus in the 5th century BC.
A striking tattoo of a deer with a griffon's beak and Capricorn antlers was found on the left shoulder of the ancient 'princess', who died about age 25. The antlers are decorated with the heads of griffons. And the same griffon's head is shown on the back of the animal. She also has a dear's head on her wrist, with big antlers.
"Our young woman - the 'princess' - has only her two arms tattooed," Dr Polosmak told the Siberian Times. "So they signified both age and status."
Buried with the 'princess' were six saddled-and-bridled horses, bronze and gold ornaments - and a small canister of cannabis. She is not known to be a 'princess', as her name implies. Experts are divided over whether she was a poet, healer or holy woman.
Two warriors recovered from the same burial site in the permafrost of the Ukok Plateau were similar fantastical creatures. One had an image reaching across his right shoulder from his chest to his back.
The reconstructed tattoos were released to mark the moving of the remains of the princess to a permanent display in the National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk where she will be put on display.
"Tattoos were used as a mean of personal identification - like a passport now, if you like," said Dr Polosmak. "I think we have not moved far from Pazyryks in how the tattoos are made.
"We can say that most likely there was - and is - one place on the body for everyone to start putting the tattoos on, and it was a left shoulder. I can assume so because all the mummies we found with just one tattoo had it on their left shoulders.
"And nowadays this is the same place where people try to put the tattoos on, thousands of years on. I think its linked to the body composition - as the left shoulder is the place where it is noticeable most, where it looks the most beautiful."
Another similarity is how the number of tattoos is linked to age. Dr Polosmak related the analogy of Greek tourist operators assessing the age of British tourists by the number of tattoos on their body.
But there the similarities end.
The tattoos used by the Pazyryk nomads were intended to help members of the tribe identify each other in the afterlife.
Unfortunately, the article above neglected to mention that the "princess'" body was discovered 19 years ago! The two males excavated near her burial are thought to be guards. Were they sacrificed to accompany her? You can find more details, and several interesting photographs and drawings, incluidng a reconstruction of whart the "princess" may have looked like, in this article at The Mail Online.