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Washington State University archaeologists have discovered the oldest tattooing artifact in western North America.
With a handle of skunkbush and a cactus-spine business end, the tool was made around 2,000 years ago by the Ancestral Pueblo people of the Basketmaker II period in what is now southeastern Utah.
Andrew - Gillreath-Brown - Anthropology - PhD - Candidate
Andrew Gillreath-Brown, an anthropology Ph.D. candidate, chanced upon the pen-sized instrument while taking an inventory of archaeological materials that had been sitting in storage for more than 40 years.
He is the lead author of a paper on the tattoo tool which was published today in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports.
Discovery - Evidence - North - America - Millennium
His discovery pushes back the earliest evidence of tattooing in western North America by more than a millennium and gives scientists a rare glimpse into the lives of a prehistoric people whose customs and culture have largely been forgotten.
"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, 33, said. "This tattoo tool provides us information about past Southwestern culture we did not know before."
Tattooing - Artform - Mode - Expression - Cultures
Tattooing is an artform and mode of expression common to many indigenous cultures worldwide. However, little is known about when or why the practice began.
This is especially the case in places like the southwestern United States, where no tattoos have been identified on preserved human remains and there are no ancient written accounts of the practice.
Archaeologists - Depictions - Artwork - Identification - Tattoo
Instead, archaeologists have relied on visual depictions in ancient artwork and the identification of tattoo implements to trace the origins of tattooing in the region.
Previously, bundled and hafted, or handled, cactus spine tattoo tools from Arizona and New Mexico provided the best archaeological examples of...
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