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A 2,000-year-old spiky object recently rediscovered in museum storage is the oldest known tattoo-making tool from western North America, a new study finds.
The pen-size tool has two needles made from prickly pear cactus spines, which are tied to a handle of wooden skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) with yucca leaf strips. It was crafted by the ancestral Pueblo people who lived from about 500 B.C. to A.D. 500, during of the Basketmaker II period, in what is now southeastern Utah.
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"Tattooing by prehistoric people in the Southwest is not talked about much because there has not ever been any direct evidence to substantiate it," Gillreath-Brown said in a statement. "This tattoo tool provides us information about past Southwestern culture we did not know before."
Tattoo - Tool - Pear - Cactus - Spines
The tattoo tool has two prickly pear cactus spines attached to it.
Gillreath-Brown happened upon the 3.9-inch-long (9.9 centimeters) tool while taking an inventory of archaeological artifacts that had been in storage for nearly 50 years at Washington State University. The discovery shed lights on Pueblo culture, he said, given that researchers have yet to find any tattoos on the remains of indigenous people who lived in ancient America. Nor are there written records about tattooing from these early cultures, he said.
Researchers - Cultures - Tattoos - Discovery - Tools
Instead, researchers have inferred that these cultures had tattoos based on the discovery of other tattoo-making tools. For instance, researchers have found other cactus-spine tattoo tools in what is now Arizona and New Mexico, Gillreath-Brown said. The earliest of these tools dates to between A.D. 1100 and 1280.
The newly identified tool is much older, dating to between A.D 79 to 130, he said.
Tips - Cactus - Needles
The tips of the two parallel cactus needles are stained black,...
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